It seems eminently fitting and proper in this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the Proclamation of Emancipation that the Negro should give pause and look around him at the things which he has done, those which he might have done, and those which he intends to do. We pause, just at the beginning of another half century, taking stock of past achievements, present conditions, future possibilities.
In considering the literary work of the Negro, his pre-eminence in the field of oratory is striking. Since the early nineteenth century until the present time, he is found giving eloquent voice to the story of his wrongs and his proscriptions. Crude though the earlier efforts may be, there is a certain grim eloquence in them that is touching, there must be, because of the intensity of feeling behind the words.
Therefore, it seems appropriate in putting forth a volume commemorating the birth of the Negro into manhood, to collect some few of the speeches he made to help win his manhood, his place in the economy of the nation, his right to stand with his face to the sun. The present volume does not aim to be a complete collection of Negro Eloquence; it does not even aim to present the best that the Negro has done on the platform, it merely aims to present to the public some few of the best speeches made within the past hundred years. Much of the best is lost; much of it is hidden away in forgotten places. We have not always appreciated our own work sufficiently to preserve it, and thus much valuable material is wasted. Sometimes it has been difficult to obtain good speeches from those who are living because of their innate modesty, either in not desiring to appear in print, or in having thought so little of their efforts as to have lost them.
The Editor is conscious that many names not in the table of contents will suggest themselves to the most casual reader, but the omissions are not intentional nor yet of ignorance always, but due to the difficulty of procuring the matter in time for the publication of the volume before the golden year shall have closed.
In collecting and arranging the matter, for the volume, I am deeply indebted first to the living contributors who were so gracious and generous in their responses to the request for their help, and to the relatives of those who have passed into silence, for the loan of valuable books and manuscripts. I cannot adequately express my gratitude to Mr. John E. Bruce and Mr. Arthur A. Schomburg, President and Secretary of the Negro Society for Historical Research, for advice, suggestion, and best of all, for help in lending priceless books and manuscripts and for aid in copying therefrom.
Again, we repeat, this volume is not a complete anthology; not the final word in Negro eloquence of to-day, nor yet a collection of all the best; it is merely a suggestion, a guide-post, pointing the way to a fuller work, a slight memorial of the birth-year of the race.
By Hon. John R. Lynch
The House having under consideration the civil-rights bill, Mr. Lynch said:
I will now endeavor to answer the arguments of those who have been contending that the passage of this bill is an effort to bring about social equality between the races. That the passage of this bill can in any manner affect the social status of any one seems to me to be absurd and ridiculous. I have never believed for a moment that social equality could be brought about even between persons of the same race. I have always believed that social distinctions existed among white people the same as among colored people. But those who contend that the passage of this bill will have a tendency to bring about social equality between the races virtually and substantially admit that there are no social distinctions among white people whatever, but that all white persons, regardless of their moral character, are the social equals of each other; for if by conferring upon colored people the same rights and privileges that are now exercised and enjoyed by whites indiscriminately will result in bringing about social equality between the races, then the same process of reasoning must necessarily bring us to the conclusion that there are no social distinctions among whites, because all white persons, regardless of their social standing, are permitted to enjoy these rights. See then how unreasonable, unjust, and false is the assertion that social equality is involved in this legislation. I cannot believe that gentlemen on the other side of the House mean what they say when they admit as they do that the immoral, the ignorant, and the degraded of their own race are the social equals of themselves and their families. If they do, then I can only assure them that they do not put as high an estimate upon their own social standing as respectable and intelligent colored people place upon theirs; for there are hundreds and thousands of white people of both sexes whom I know to be the social inferiors of respectable and intelligent colored people. I can then assure that portion of my Democratic friends on the other side of the House whom I regard as my social inferiors that if at any time I should meet any one of you at a hotel and occupy a seat at the same table with you, or the same seat in a car with you, do not think that I have thereby accepted you as my social equal. Not at all. But if any one should attempt to discriminate against you for no other reason than because you are identified with a particular race or religious sect, I would regard it as an outrage; as a violation of the principles of republicanism; and I would be in favor of protecting you in the exercise and enjoyment of your rights by suitable and appropriate legislation.
No, Mr. Speaker, it is not social rights that we desire. We have enough of that already. What we ask is protection in the enjoyment of public rights. Rights which are or should be accorded to every citizen alike. Under our present system of race distinctions a white woman of a questionable social standing, yea, I may say, of an admitted immoral character, can go to any public place or upon any public conveyance and be the recipient of the same treatment, the same courtesy, and the same respect that is usually accorded to the most refined and virtuous; but let an intelligent, modest, refined colored lady present herself and ask that the same privileges be accorded to her that have just been accorded to her social inferior of the white race, and in nine cases out of ten, except in certain portions of the country, she will not only be refused, but insulted for making the request.
Mr. Speaker, I ask the members of this House in all candor, is this right? I appeal to your sensitive feelings as husbands, fathers, and brothers, is this just? You who have affectionate companions, attractive daughters, and loving sisters, is this just? If you have any of the ingredients of manhood in your composition you will answer the question most emphatically, No! What a sad commentary upon our system of government, our religion, and our civilization! Think of it for a moment; here am I, a member of your honorable body, representing one of the largest and wealthiest districts in the State of Mississippi, and possibly in the South; a district composed of persons of different races, religions, and nationalities and yet, when I leave my home to come to the capital of the nation, to take part in the deliberations of the House and to participate with you in making laws for the government of this great Republic, in coming through the God-forsaken States of Kentucky and Tennessee, if I come by the way of Louisville or Chattanooga, I am treated, not as an American citizen, but as a brute. Forced to occupy a filthy smoking-car both night and day, with drunkards, gamblers, and criminals; and for what? Not that I am unable or unwilling to pay my way; not that I am obnoxious in my personal appearance or disrespectful in my conduct; but simply because I happen to be of a darker complexion. If this treatment was confined to persons of our own sex we could possibly afford to endure it. But such is not the case. Our wives and our daughters, our sisters and our mothers, are subjected to the same insults and to the same uncivilized treatment. You may ask why we do not institute civil suits in the State courts. What a farce! Talk about instituting a civil-rights suit in the State courts of Kentucky, for instance, where decision of the judge is virtually rendered before he enters the court-house, and the verdict of the jury substantially rendered before it is impaneled. The only moments of my life when I am necessarily compelled to question my loyalty to my Government or my devotion to the flag of my country is when I read of outrages having been committed upon innocent colored people and the perpetrators go unwhipped of justice, and when I leave my home to go traveling.
Mr. Speaker, if this unjust discrimination is to be longer tolerated by the American people, which I do not, cannot, and will not believe until I am forced to do so, then I can only say with sorrow and regret that our boasted civilization is a fraud; our republican institutions a failure; our social system a disgrace; and our religion a complete hypocrisy. But I have an abiding confidence — (though I must confess that that confidence was seriously shaken a little over two months ago) — but still I have an abiding confidence in the patriotism of this people, in their devotion to the cause of human rights, and in the stability of our republican institutions. I hope that I will not be deceived. I love the land that gave me birth; I love the Stars and Stripes. This country is where I intend to live, where I expect to die. To preserve the honor of the national flag and to maintain perpetually the Union of the States hundreds, and I may say thousands, of noble, brave, and true-hearted colored men have fought, bled, and died. And now, Mr. Speaker, I ask, can it be possible that that flag under which they fought is to be a shield and a protection to all races and classes of persons except the colored race? God forbid!
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Republican members of the House that the passage of this bill is expected of you. If any of our Democratic friends will vote for it, we will be agreeably surprised. But if Republicans should vote against it, we will be sorely disappointed; it will be to us a source of deep mortification as well as profound regret. We will feel as though we are deserted in the house of our friends. But I have no fears whatever in this respect. You have stood by the colored people of this country when it was more unpopular to do so than it is to pass this bill. You have fulfilled every promise thus far, and I have no reason to believe that you will not fulfill this one. Then give us this bill. The white man’s government Negro-hating democracy will, in my judgment, soon pass out of existence. The progressive spirit of the American people will not much longer tolerate the existence of an organization that lives upon the passions and prejudices of the hour.
I appeal to all the members of the House — Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals — to join with us in the passage of this bill, which has its object the protection of human rights. And when every man, woman, and child can feel and know that his, her, and their rights are fully protected by the strong arm of a generous and grateful Republic, then we can all truthfully say that this beautiful land of ours, over which the “Star-Spangled Banner” so triumphantly waves, is, in truth and in fact, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
By Pinkney Benton Stewart Pinchback
Pinkney Benton Stewart Pinchback is one of the most interesting and picturesque figures in the race. A staunch fighter in the Reconstruction period in Louisiana, a delegate to many national Republican Conventions; Ex-Lieutenant-Governor of Louisiana.
Mr. President and Fellow Citizens:
The founders of the Republican party were aggressive men. They believed in the Declaration of Independence and the great truths it contains; and their purpose was to make these truths living realities. Possessing the courage of their convictions and regarding slavery as the arch enemy of the Republic — the greatest obstruction to its maintenance, advancement and prosperity, — they proclaimed an eternal war against it and, marshalling their forces under the banner of freedom and equality before the law for all men, boldly and defiantly met the enemy at every point and fairly routed it all along the line. Those men believed in and relied upon the conscience of the people. To touch and arouse public conscience and to convince it of the justice of their cause, they felt was all that was necessary to enlist the people on their side. Ridiculed, threatened, ostracised, and assaulted, they could not be turned from their purpose, and their achievements constitute the grandeur and glory of the Republican party. There were no apologists for wrong-doers among those men, and there ought to be none in the Republican party to-day. The South was the great disturbing element then as it is now; and the causes which rendered it so are, in a large measure, the same. The people were divided into three classes — slave-holders, slaves, and poor whites, or “poor white trash” as the latter were called by the colored people because of their utter insignificance in that community. Its peculiar condition established in the large land and slave-owning portion of the people a sort of privileged class who claimed and exercised the right not only to rule the South, but the nation; and for many years that class controlled both. Gorged with wealth and drunk with power, considering themselves born to command and govern, being undisputed rulers, almost by inheritance in their States, the Southern politicians naturally became aggressive, dictatorial, and determined to ruin the country and sever the Union rather than consent to relinquish power, even though called upon to do so by constituted methods. Hence it was that, when the people of the great North and Northwest concluded to assert their rights and choose a man from among themselves for President, they rebelled and forced upon the country so far as they were concerned, the most causeless and unnatural war recorded in history.
I shall not dwell upon the history of the war or attempt to detail its horrors and sum up its cost. I leave that task to others. If the wounds made by it have been healed, which I do not concede, far be it from my purpose to re-open them. My sole reason for referring to the war at all is to remind the Northern people of some of the agencies employed in its successful prosecution. When it commenced, the principal labor element of the South — the source of its production and wealth — was the colored race. Four millions and a half of these unfortunate people were there, slaves and property of the men who refused to submit to the will of the people lawfully expressed through the ballot-box. They were the bone and sinew of the Confederacy, tilling its fields and producing sustenance for its armies, while many of the best men of the North were compelled to abandon Northern fields to shoulder a musket in defense of the Union. As a war measure and to deprive the South of such a great advantage, your President, the immortal Lincoln, issued a proclamation in September, 1862, in which he gave public notice that it was his purpose to declare the emancipation of the slaves in the States wherein insurrection existed on January 1, 1863, unless the offenders therein lay down their arms. That notice, thank God, was disregarded, and the proclamation of January 1, 1863, proclaiming universal emancipation followed. Had the requirements of the first proclamation been observed by the people to whom it was addressed who can doubt what would have been the fate of the colored people in the South? It is reasonable to assume, inasmuch as the war was waged to perpetuate the Union and not to destroy slavery — that they would have remained in hopeless bondage. On more than one occasion President Lincoln officially declared that he would save the Union with slavery if he could, and not until it became manifest that slavery was the mainstay of the Confederacy, and the prosecution of the war to a successful close would be difficult without its destruction, did he dare touch it. I do not think that President Lincoln’s hesitancy to act upon the question arose from sympathy with the accursed institution, for I believe every pulsation of his heart was honest and pure and that he was an ardent and devoted lover of universal liberty; but he doubted whether his own people would approve of his interference with it. Assured by the manner in which the people of the North received his first proclamation that they appreciated the necessity of destroying this great aid of the enemy, he went forward bravely declaring that, “possibly for every drop of blood drawn by the lash one might have to be drawn by the sword, but if so, as was said over eighteen hundred years ago, the judgments of the Lord are just and righteous altogether,” and abolished human slavery from the land forever.
That this great act was a Godsend and an immeasurable blessing to the colored race, I admit, but I declare in the same breath that it was dictated and performed more in the interest of the white people of the North and to aid them in conquering the rebellion than from love of or a disposition to help the Negro. The enfranchisement of the colored race also sprang from the necessities of the nation. At the close of the war the Southern States had to be rehabilitated with civil governments and re-admitted into the Union. The men who had plunged the country into war and had tried to destroy the Government were about to resume their civil and political rights, and, through the election of Representatives and Senators in Congress, regain influence and power in national councils. Apprehending danger from the enormous power they would possess if reinstated in absolute control of eleven States, some means had to be devised to prevent this. A political element, loyal to the Union and the flag, must be created; and again the ever faithful colored people were brought into requisition, and without their asking for it, the elective franchise was conferred upon them. There was no question about the loyalty of these people, and the supposition that they would be a valuable political force and form the basis of a loyal political party in the South was both natural and just, and the wisdom of their enfranchisement was demonstrated by the establishment of Republican governments in several of the States, and the sending of mixed delegations of Republican and Democratic members of Congress therefrom so long as the laws conferring citizenship upon the colored man were enforced.
If the South is to remain politically Democratic as it is to-day, it is not the fault of the colored people. Their fealty to the North and the Republican party is without parallel in the world’s history. In Louisiana alone more than five thousand lives attest it. While in nearly every other Southern State fully as many lie in premature graves, martyrs to the cause. Considering themselves abandoned and left to the choice of extermination or the relinquishment of the exercise of their political rights, they have, in large districts in the South, wisely preferred the latter. Kept in a constant condition of suspense and dread by the peculiar methods of conducting canvasses and elections in that section, who can blame them? It is my firm conviction that no other people under God’s sun, similarly situated, would have done half so well. The fault is attributable to the vicious practise, which obtains largely even here in the civilized North, of apologizing for and condoning crimes committed for political purposes. Men love power everywhere and Southern Democrats are no exception. On the contrary, deeming themselves “born to command,” as I have already remarked, and knowing that there is no power to restrain or punish them for crimes committed upon the poor and defenseless colored citizens, of course they have pushed them to the wall. The inequality between the two races in all that constitutes protective forces was such as to render that result inevitable as soon as Federal protection was withdrawn, and I do not hesitate to affirm that unless some means are devised to enforce respect for the rights of the colored citizens of the South, their enfranchisement will prove a curse instead of a benefit to the country. Emancipated to cripple the South and enfranchised to strengthen the North, the colored race was freed and its people made citizens in the interest of the Republic. Its fundamental law declares them citizens, and the Fifteenth Amendment expressly states that: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The faith and honor of the Nation are pledged to the rigid enforcement of the law in this, as in every other respect, and the interests of the 40,000,000 white people in the Republic demand it. If the law, both constitutional and statutory, affecting the rights and privileges of the colored citizens can be defiantly ignored and disobeyed in eleven States of the Union in a matter of such grave import as this — a matter involving the very essence of republican government, i.e., the right of the majority to rule — who can tell where it will end and how long it will be before elections in all of the States will be armed conflicts, to be decided by the greatest prowess and dexterity in the use of the bowie knife, pistol, shot-gun and rifle?
White men of the North, I tell you this practise of controlling elections in the South by force and fraud is contagious! It spreads with alarming rapidity and unless eradicated, will overtake and overwhelm you as it has your friends in the South. It showed its horrid head in Maine, and came very near wresting that State from a lawful majority. Employed in the South first to drive Republicans from a few counties, it has grown from “autumnal outbreaks” into an almost perpetual hurricane and, gathering force as it goes, has violently seized State after State, mastered the entire South, and is even now thundering at the gates of the national Capital. Whether it shall capture it too, and spread its blighting influence all over the land, is the question you must answer at the poles in this election.
It was the intention of the great men who founded this Republic that it should be “A government of the people, for the people, and by the people”; that its citizens, from the highest to the lowest, should enjoy perfect equality before the law. To realize this idea the rule of the majority, to be ascertained through the processes provided by law, was wisely adopted, and the laws providing for and regulating elections are respected and obeyed in the Northern, Eastern, and Western States. The Democracy of the South alone seems privileged to set at defiance the organic as well as every statutory enactment, national and State, designed to secure this essential principle of free government. Those men must be taught that such an exceptional and unhealthy condition of things will not be tolerated; that the rights of citizens of every nationality are sacred in the eyes of the law, and their right to vote for whom they please and have their ballots honestly counted shall not be denied or abridged with impunity; that the faith of the Nation is pledged to the defense and maintenance of these obligations, and it will keep its pledge at whatever cost may be found necessary.
By J. Madison Vance, of New Orleans, La.
In these trying times of peace with tears of blood; these times of crimes so horrible and fiendish that Christianity bows in supplication for surcease of sorrow, and the advance of civilization seems in vain; in these times when the Negro is compared to the brute, and his mentality limited to the ordinary; in these times when the holy robes of the Church are used to decry, villify and malign the race; in these times when the subsidized press of the country loudly proclaims the Negro’s incapacity for government; in these times I turn with pardonable pride to the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, an organization the affairs of which are administered entirely by colored men, an organization that typifies the possibilities of the race; the organization whose very existence gives the lie to the damnable aspersions cast upon us by the enemies of humanity.
This grand organization is but a collection of individuals, and as individuals we must shape our destiny. The time is past for pleading; these are days of action. The higher we rise, the sharper will become the prejudice of color. The laboring white is jealous of the competition of the blacks. The problem is to be worked out in the South, and largely by ourselves. With all the disadvantages and proscriptive doctrines that encroach upon us in that Southland, I honestly believe that this land with all its natural beauties and advantages, this land below the mountains; this land of passion and pleasure, of fever and fret, this land famed in history, song, and story as the “land of Dixie,” is the Negro’s coming Arcadia. From its lowlands and marshes will yet come forth the peerless leader, who will not only point out the way, but will climb the battlements of tolerance and race prejudice, backed by the march of civilization, and, with his face to the enemy, fight the battle of common humanity.
The romance of “Emancipation” is fading out. The old slave is rapidly passing. The mythology of his period is extinct. The Republic has declared against the “Force Bill.” The “Prætorian Guard” is mustered out, and the sentiment of the times is against paternalism. “Every tub must stand on its own bottom,” and the eloquence of the orator cannot arrest the trend of the times. A problem is half solved when facts are apprehended; it is more than half solved when the facts are comprehended, and practical sense succeeds sentiment.
The Negro confronts destiny. He must be the architect of his own fortune. He must demonstrate capacity and independence, because mendicancy is always destructive. The living present calls us away from the ashes of the dead and buried past. Our hopes are brighter and our ambitions higher. Let us stand on our own racial pride, and prove our claim for equality by showing the fruits of thrift, talent, and frugality. The brotherhood of genius will not refuse the need of merit, and within the sweep of our constant observations great artists, musicians, poets, and orators are more than hinted possibilities. We would be criminals to despair. The Negro is here, and here to stay, and traveling rapidly in “the wake of coming ages.” We know not how far the goal may still be distant, but at least we think we see it and our most fervent hope is to approach it more and more nearly —
As the shadows come creeping over the dial of time, the nineteenth century faces the setting sun; a century replete with the grandest inventions of modern times, and with a fullness of scientific investigation beyond the possible conception of man one hundred years ago. This century has emancipated woman, and like the “Dreamers on the brow of Parnassus,” she is not forgetful of the toilers on other altitudes within the horizon’s rim. She is not blind to the signal lights, which in their blaze proclaim new knowledge, new power for man, new triumphs, new glory for the human spirit in its march on chaos and the dark. Any message of love would be incomplete without her gentle voice. Her love is her life, white-winged and eternal. Her welcome is spontaneous, fervid, whole-souled, generous. Her influence is felt everywhere, throughout the ramifications of our “Order.” The wholesome power of her persuasive counsel is ofttimes needed, and the tender mercies of her tireless devotion have smoothed away the grim visage of discontent, brought solace to the fevered brain, and made peaceful that dreary journey from life to death.
We look out upon our vast army of followers, and glory in our stalwart band. * * * * * Out of the darkness of the night, imposing in our numbers, stand we forth, splendid and terrible, in “The Wake of the Coming Ages.” And when we look at all the magnificent fabric we call civilization, its incalculable material, its wealth, its amazing mechanical resources, its wonderful scientific discoveries, its many-sided literature, its sleepless and ubiquitous journalism, its lovely art, its abounding charities, its awful fears and sublime hopes, we get a magnificent conception of the possibilities of life, as this latest of the centuries draws its purple robe about its majestic form and stands up to die as the old Roman Cæsar stood, in all the magnificence of its riches, and the plenitude of its power.
But after all, the measure of its value is the character of it humanity.
By Christian A. Fleetwood
Christian A. Fleetwood, Sergeant-Major, United States Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1866. Received a Medal of Honor from Congress for meritorious action in saving the colors at Chapin Farm, September 29, 1864, where he seized them after two color-bearers had been shot down, and bore them throughout the fight. Also has a General B. F. Butler Medal for bravery and courage before Richmond.
For 1600 years prior to the war between Great Britain and the Colonies, the pages of history bear no record of the Negro as a soldier. Tracing his separate history in the Revolutionary War is a task of much difficulty, for the reason that while individual instances of valor and patriotism abound, there were so few separate bodies of Negro troops that no separate record appears to have been made. The simple fact is that the fathers as a rule enlisted men both for the Army and Navy, just as now it is only continued by the Navy; that is to say, they were assigned wherever needed, without regard to race or color. Varner’s Rhode Island Battalion appears to have been the only large aggregation of Negroes in this war, though Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire each furnished one separate company in addition to individuals scattered through their other organizations, so that ere the close of the war, there were very few brigades, regiments, or companies in which the Negro was not in evidence.
The free Negro appears to have gone in from the beginning without attracting or calling out special comment. Later, as men grew scarcer and necessity more pressing, slaves were taken in also, and then the trouble began. Those who held slaves did not care to lose them in this way. Others who had not did not think it just the thing in a war for avowed freedom to place an actual slave in the ranks to fight. Some did not want the Negro, bonded or free, to take part as a soldier in the struggle. So that in May, 1775, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety voted that thereafter only free men should be enlisted. In July, General Gates issued an order prohibiting further enlistments of Negroes, but saying nothing of those already in the service.
In October a council of war presided over by General Washington, comprising three major-generals and six brigadier-generals, voted unanimously against the enlistment of slaves, and by a decided majority against further enlistments of Negroes. Ten days later in a conference held at Cambridge, Mass., participated in by General Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Lynch, and the deputy governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island, a similar action was taken.
On the 7th November, 1775, Earl Dundore, commanding the force of His Majesty the King, issued a proclamation offering freedom and equal pay to all slaves who would join his armies as soldiers. It did not take the colonists long to find out their mistake, although General Washington, in accordance with the expressed will of his officers and of the Committee of Safety, did on the 17th of November, 1775, issue a proclamation forbidding the further enlistment of Negroes. Less than two months later, that is to say on the 30th of December, 1775, he issued a second proclamation again authorizing the enlistment of free Negroes. He advised Congress of his action, and stated that he would recall it if so directed. But he was not. The splendid service rendered by the Negro and the great and pressing need of men were such, that although the opposition continued from some sections, it was not thereafter strong enough to obtain recognition. So the Negroes went and came, much as other men.
In all the events of the war, from Bunker Hill to Yorktown, they bore an honorable part. The history of the doings of the armies is their history, as in everything they took part and did their share. Their total enlistment was about 3,000 men, — a very fair percentage for the population of that period. I might instance the killing of Major Pitcairn, at Bunker Hill, by Peter Salem, and of Major Montgomery, at Fort Griswold, by Jordan Freeman. The part they took in the capture of Major-General Prescott at Newport; their gallant defense of Colonel Greene, their beloved commander, when he was surprised and murdered at Croton River, May 13, 1781, when it was only after the last of his faithful guards had been shot and cut down that he was reached; or the battle of Rhode Island, when a battalion of 400 Negroes withstood three separate and distinct charges from 1,500 Hessians under Count Donop, and beat them back with such tremendous loss that Count Donop at once applied for an exchange, fearing that his men would kill him, if he went into battle with them again, for having exposed them to such slaughter; and many other instances that are of record. The letter following, written December 5, 1775, explains itself:
“To the Honorable General Court of the Massachusetts Bay:
“The subscribers beg leave to report to your Honorable House (which we do in justice to the character of so brave a man) that under our own observation we declare that a Negro man named Salem Poor, of Colonel Frye’s Regiment, Captain Ames’ Company, in the late battle at Charleston, behaved like an experienced officer as well as an excellent soldier. To set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious. We would only beg to say, in the person of this Negro centers a brave and gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a character we submit to Congress.”
This is a splendid and well-attested tribute to a gallant and worthy Negro. There were many such, but, beyond receiving and reading, no action was taken thereon by Congress. There is no lack of incidents, and the temptation to quote many of them is great, but the time allotted me is too brief for extended mention, and I must bring this branch of my subject to a close. It is in evidence that while so many Negroes were offering their lives a willing sacrifice for the country, in some sections the officers of the Continental forces received their bounty and pay in Negroes, “grown” and “small,” instead of “dollars” and “cents.” Fighting for liberty and taking pay in slaves!
When the war was over the free men returned to meet their same difficulties; the slaves were caught when possible and re-enslaved by their former masters. In Boston a few years later we find a party of black patriots of the Revolution mobbed on Boston Common while celebrating the anniversary of the abolition of the slave-trade.
The captain of a vessel trading along the coast tells of a Negro who had fought in the war and been distinguished for bravery and soldierly conduct. He was reclaimed and re-enslaved by his master after the war, and served him faithfully until old age rendered him useless. The master then brought the poor old slave to this captain and asked him to take him along on his trip and try to sell him. The captain hated to sell a man who had fought for his country, but finally agreed, took the poor old man to Mobile, and sold him for $100 to a man who put him to attending a chicken-coop. His former master continued to draw the old slave’s pension as a soldier in the Revolution, until he died.
The War of 1812 was mainly fought upon the water, and in the American Navy at that time the Negro stood in the ratio of about one to six. We find record of complaint by Commodore Perry at the beginning because of the large number of Negroes sent him, but later the highest tribute to their bravery and efficiency. Captain Shaler, of the armed brig General Thompson, writing of an engagement between his vessel and a British frigate, says:
“The name of one of my poor fellows who was killed ought to be registered in the book of fame, and remembered as long as bravery is a virtue. He was a black man, by name John Johnson. A twenty-four pound shot struck him in the hip, and took away all the lower part of his body. In this state the poor brave fellow lay on the deck, and several times exclaimed to his shipmates: ‘Fire away, my boys; nor haul a color down!’ Another black man, by the name of John Davis, who was struck in much the same manner, repeatedly requested to be thrown overboard, saying that he was only in the way of the others.”
I know of nothing finer in history than these incidents of valor and patriotism.
As before, the Negro was not universally welcomed to the ranks of the American Army; but later, continued reverses and a lack of enthusiasm in enlistments made it necessary to seek his aid, and from Mobile, Ala., on September 21, 1814, General Jackson issued a stirring call to the free colored people of Louisiana for aid.
In a remarkably short period, two battalions were raised, under Majors LaCaste and Savary, which did splendid service in the battle of New Orleans. New York enrolled two battalions, and sent them to Sacketts Harbor. Pennsylvania enrolled 2400, and sent them to Gray’s Ferry at the capture of Washington, to prepare for the invading column. Another battalion also was raised,armed, equipped, and ready to start to the front, when peace was declared.
In one of the actions of this war, a charging column of the American Army was repulsed and thrown into great disorder. A Negro private named Jeffreys, seeing the disaster, sprang upon a horse, and by heroic effort rallied the troops, led them back upon a second charge, and completely routed the enemy. He was rewarded by General Jackson with the honorary title of Major. Under the laws he could not commission him.
When the war was over, this gallant man returned to his home in Nashville, Tenn., where he lived for years afterward, highly respected by its citizens of all races.
At the age of seventy years, this black hero was obliged, in self-defense, to strike a white ruffian, who had assaulted him. Under the laws of the State he was arrested and given nine and thirty lashes on his bare back. It broke his heart, and Major Jeffreys died.
It seems a little singular that in the tremendous struggle between the States in 1861-1865, the South should have been the first to take steps toward the enlistment of Negroes. Yet such is the fact. Two weeks after the fall of Fort Sumter, the Charleston Mercury records the passing through Augusta of several companies of the the 3rd and 4th Georgia Regiment, and of sixteen well-drilled companies and one Negro company from Nashville, Tenn.
The Memphis Avalanche and The Memphis Appeal of May 9, 10, and 11, 1861, gave notice of the appointment by the “Committee of Safety” of a committee of three persons “to organize a volunteer company composed of our patriotic freemen of color of the city of Memphis, for the service of our common defense.”
A telegram from New Orleans dated November 23, 1861, notes the review by Governor Moore of over 28,000 troops, and that one regiment comprised “1,400 colored men.” The New Orleans Picayune, referring to a review held February 9, 1862, says: “We must also pay a deserved compliment to the companies of free colored men, all very well drilled and comfortably equipped.”
It is a little odd, too, that in the evacuation of New Orleans a little later, in April, 1862, all of the troops succeeded in getting away except the Negroes. They “got left.”
It is not in our line to speculate upon what would have been the result of the war had the South kept up this policy, enlisted the freemen, and emancipated the enlisting slaves and their families. The immense addition to their fighting force, the quick recognition of them by Great Britain, to which slavery was the greatest bar, and the fact that the heart of the Negro was with the South but for slavery, and the case stands clear. But the primary successes of the South closed its eyes to its only chance of salvation, while at the same time the eyes of the North were opened.
In 1865, the South saw, and endeavored to remedy, its error. On March 9, 1865, the Confederate Congress passed a bill, recommended by General Lee, authorizing the enlistment of 200,000 Negroes; but it was then too late.
The North came slowly and reluctantly to recognize the Negro as a factor for good in the war. “This is a white man’s war,” met the Negroes at every step of their first efforts to gain admission to the armies of the Union.
To General David Hunter, more than to any other one man, is due the credit for the successful entry upon the stage of the Negro as a soldier in this war.
In the spring of 1862, he raised and equipped a regiment of Negroes in South Carolina, and when the fact because known in Washington and throughout the country, such a storm was raised about the ears of the Administration that they gracefully stood aside and left the brave general to fight his enemies in the front and rear as best he might. He was quite capable to do both, as it proved.
The beginning of 1863 saw the opening of the doors to the Negro in every direction. General Lorenzo Thomas went in person to the valley of the Mississippi to supervise it there. Massachusetts was authorized to fill its quota with Negroes. The States of Maryland, Missouri, Delaware, and Tennessee were thrown open by order of the War Department, and all slaves enlisting therefrom declared free. Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York joined the band and sent the stalwart black boy in blue to the front singing, “Give us a flag, all free, without a slave.” For two years the fierce and determined opposition had kept them out, but now the bars were down and they came pouring in. Some one said, “he cared not who made the laws of a people if he could make their songs.” A better exemplification of this would be difficult to find than is the song written by “Miles O’Reilly” (Colonel Halpine), of the old 10th Army Corps. I cannot resist the temptation to quote it here. With General Hunter’s letter and this song to quote from, the episode was closed:
“Some say it is a burning shame to
make the Naygurs fight,
An’ that the trade o’ being kilt belongs but to the white;
But as for me, upon me sowl, so liberal are we here,
I’ll let Sambo be murthered, in place of meself, on every day of the year.
On every day of the year, boys, and every hour in the day,
The right to be kilt I’ll divide wid him, and divil a word I’ll say.
In battles’ wild commotion I shouldn’t at all object
If Sambo’s body should stop a ball that was coming for me direct,
An’ the prod of a Southern bayonet; so liberal are we here,
I’ll resign and let Sambo take it, on every day in the year,
On every day in the year, boys, an’ wid none of your nasty pride,
All right in Southern baynet prod, wid Sambo I’ll divide.
The men who object to Sambo should take his place and fight,
An’ it is betther to have a Naygur’s hue, than a liver that’s weak an’ white,
Though Sambo’s black as the ace of spades, his finger a thryger can pull,
An’ his eye runs straight on the barrel-sight from under its thatch of wool.
So hear me all, boys, darlin’, don’t think I’m tipping you chaff, —
The right to be kilt, I’ll divide with him, an’ give him the largest half.”
It took three years of war to place the enlisted Negro upon the same ground as the enlisted white man as to pay and emoluments; perhaps six years of war might have given him shoulder-straps, but the war ended without authorization of law for that step. At first they were received, under an act of Congress that allowed each one, without regard to rank, ten dollars per month, three dollars thereof to be retained for clothing and equipments. I think it was in May, 1864, when the act was passed equalizing the pay, but not opening the doors to promotion.
Under an act of the Confederate Congress, making it a crime punishable with death for any white person to train Negroes or mulattoes to arms, or aid them in any military enterprise, and devoting the Negro caught under arms to the tender mercies of the “present or future laws of the State” in which caught, a large number of promotions were made by the way of a rope and a tree along the first year of the Negro’s service. (I can even recall one instance as late as April, 1865, though it had been long before then generally discontinued.)
What the Negro did, how he did it, and where, it would take volumes to properly record, I can however give but briefest mention to a few of the many evidences of his fitness for the duties of the war, and his aid to the cause of the Union.
The first fighting done by organized Negro troops appears to have been done by Company A, 1st South Carolina Negro Regiment, at St. Helena Island, November 3 to 10, 1862, while participating in an expedition along the coast of Georgia and Florida under Lieutenant-Colonel O. T. Beard, of the 48th New York Infantry, who says in his report:
“The colored men fought with astonishing coolness and bravery. I found them all I could desire, — more than I had hoped. They behaved gloriously, and deserve all praise.”
The testimony thus inaugurated runs like a cord of gold through the web and woof of the history of the Negro as a soldier from that date to their final charge, the last made at Clover Hill, Va., April 9, 1865.
Necessarily the first actions in which the Negro bore a part commanded most attention. Friends and enemies were looking eagerly to see how they would acquit themselves, and so it comes to pass that the names of Fort Wagner, Olustee, Millikens Bend, Port Hudson, and Fort Pillow are as familiar as Bull Run, Antietam, Shiloh and Gettysburg, and while those first experiences were mostly severe reverses, they were by that very fact splendid exemplifiers of the truth that the Negroes could be relied upon to fight under the most adverse circumstances, against any odds, and could not be discouraged.
Let us glance for a moment at Port Hudson, La., in May, 1863, assaulted by General Banks with a force of which the 1st and 2nd Regiments, Louisiana Native Guards, formed a part. When starting upon their desperate mission, Colonel Stafford of the 1st Regiment, in turning over the regimental colors to the color-guard, made a brief and patriotic address, closing with the words:
“Color-guard: Protect, defend, die for, but do not surrender, these colors.” The gallant flag-sergeant, Plancianos, taking them replied: “Colonel: I will bring back these colors to you in honor, or report to God the reason why.”
Six times with desperate valor they charged over ground where success was hopeless, a deep bayou between them and the works of the enemy at the point of attack rendering it impossible to reach them, yet strange to say, six times they were ordered forward and six times they went to useless death, until swept back by the blazing breath of shot and shell before which nothing living could stand. Here fell the gallant Captain Cailloux, black as the ace of spades. Refusing to leave the field though his arm had been shattered by a bullet, he returned to the charge until killed by a shell.
A soldier limping painfully to the front was halted and asked where he was going. He replied, “I am shot bad in de leg, and dey want me to go to de hospital, but I guess I can give ’em a little more yet.”
The colors came back, but crimsoned with the blood of the gallant Plancianos, who reported to God from that bloody field.
Shall we glance from this to Millikens Bend, La., in January, 1863, garrisoned by the 9th and 11th Louisiana and the 1st Mississippi, all Negroes, and about 160 of the 23rd Iowa (white), about 1100 fighting men in all? Attacked by a force of six Confederate regiments, crushed out of their works by sheer weight of numbers, borne down toward the levee, fighting every step of the way, hand to hand — clubbed musket, bayonets, and swords, — from three A. M. to twelve noon, they fought desperately until a Union gun-boat came to the rescue and shelled the desperate foe back to the woods, with a total loss to the defenders of 437 men, — two-fifths of their strength.
Shall we turn with sadness to Fort Wagner, S. C., in July, 1863, when the 54th Massachusetts won its deathless fame, and its grand young commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, passed into the temple of immortality? After a march of all day, under a burning sun, and all night through a tempest of wind and rain, drenched, exhausted, hungry, they wheeled into line, without a murmur for that awful charge, that dance of death, the struggle against hopeless odds, and the shattered remnants were hurled back as from the mouth of hell, leaving the dead bodies of their young commander and his noble followers to be buried in a common grave. Its total loss was about one-third of its strength.
Here it was that the gallant flag-sergeant, Carney, though grievously wounded, bore back his flag to safety, and fell fainting and exhausted with loss of blood, saying, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground!” Or another glance, at ill-starred Olustee, where the gallant 8th United States Colored Troops lost 87 killed of its effective fighting force, the largest loss in any one colored regiment in any one action of the war. And so on, by Fort Pillow, which let us pass in merciful silence, and to Honey Hill, S. C., perhaps the last desperate fight in the far south, in which the 32nd, 35th, and 102nd United States Colored Troops and the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry won fresh and fadeless laurels for splendid fighting against hopeless odds and insurmountable difficulties, and then to Nashville, Tenn., with its recorded loss of 84 killed in the effectives of the 13th United States Colored Troops.
These were all brilliant actions, and they covered the actors with, and reflected upon the race, a blaze of glory. But it was in the armies of the James and of the Potomac that the true metal of the Negro as a soldier rang out its clearest notes amid the tremendous diapasons that rolled back and forth between the embattled hosts. Here was war indeed, upon its grandest scale and in all its infinite variety: The tireless march under burning sun, chilling frosts, and driven tempests; the lonely vigil of the picket under starless skies, the rush and roar of countless “hosts to battle driven” in the mad charge and the victorious shout that pursued the fleeing foe; the grim determination that held its line of defenses with set teeth, blood-shot eye, and strained muscle, beating back charge after charge of the foe; the patient labor in trench and mine, on hill and in valley, swamp and jungle, with disease adding its horrors to the decimation of shot and shell.
Here the Negro stood in the full glare of the greatest search-light, part and parcel of the grandest armies ever mustered upon this continent, competing side by side with the best and bravest of the Union Army against the flower of the Confederacy, the best and bravest of Lee’s army, and losing nothing in the contrast. Never again while time lasts will the doubt arise as in 1861, “Will the Negro fight?” As a problem, it has been solved; as a question, it has been answered; and as a fact, it is as established as the eternal hills. It was the Negroes who rang up the curtain upon the last act of the bloody tragedy at Petersburg, Va., June 15, 1864, and they who rang it down at Clover Hill, Va., April 9, 1865. They were one of the strong fingers upon the mighty hand that grasped the giant’s throat at Petersburg and never flexed until the breath went out at Appomattox. In this period it would take page on page to recount their deeds of valor and their glorious victories.
See them on the 15th of June, 1864, carrying the out-post at Baylor’s field in early morning, and all that long, hot, summer day advancing, a few yards at a time, then lying down to escape the fire from the works, but still gradually creeping nearer and nearer, until, just as the sun went down, they swept like a tornado over the works and started upon a race for the city, close at the heels of the flying foe, until mistakenly ordered back. Of this day’s experience General Badeau writes: “No worse strain on the nerves of troops is possible, for it is harder to remain quiet under cannon fire, even though comparatively harmless, than to advance against a storm of musketry.” General W. F. “Baldy” Smith, speaking of their conduct, says: “No nobler effort has been put forth to-day, and no greater success achieved than that of the colored troops.”
Or, again, at the terrible mine explosion of July 30, 1864, on the Petersburg line, and at the fearful slaughter of September 29, 1864, at New Market Heights and Fort Harrison. On this last date in the Fourth United States Colored Troops, out of a color-guard of twelve men, but one came off the field on his own feet. The gallant flag-sergeant, Hilton, the last to fall, cried out as he went down, “Boys, save the colors”; and they were saved.
Some ten or more years later, in Congress, in the midst of a speech advocating the giving of civil rights to the Negro, General Butler said, referring to this incident:
“There, in a space not wider than the clerk’s desk, and three hundred yards long, lay the dead bodies of 543 of my colored comrades, slain in the defense of their country, who had laid down their lives to uphold its flag and its honor, as a willing sacrifice. And as I rode along, guiding my horse this way and that, lest he should profane with his hoofs what seemed to me the sacred dead, and as I looked at their bronzed faces upturned in the shining sun, as if in mute appeal against the wrongs of the country for which they had given their lives, and whose flag had been to them a flag of stripes, in which no star of glory had ever shone for them — feeling I had wronged them in the past, and believing what was the future duty of my country to them, — I swore to myself a solemn oath: ‘May my right hand forget its cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if ever I fail to defend the rights of the men who have given their blood for me and my country this day and for their race forever.’ And, God helping me, I will keep that oath.”
History further repeats itself in the fact that in every war so far known to this country, the first blood, and, in some cases, the last also, has been shed by the faithful Negro, and this in spite of all the years of bondage and oppression, and of wrongs unspeakable. Under the sun there has nothing been known in the history of any people more marvellous than these facts!
It is but a little thing to ask, they could ask no less: be just; but, oh, the shame of it for those who need be asked!
There is no need for panegyric, for sounding phrases or rounded periods. The simple story is eloquent with all that is necessary to make the heart swell with pride. In the hour allotted me to fill, it is possible only to indicate in skeleton the worth of the Negro as a soldier. If this brief sketch should awaken even a few to interest in his achievements, and one be found willing and fitted to write the history that is their due, that writer shall achieve immortality.
By Alice Moore Dunbar
Hamilton Wright Mabie says that the question for each man to settle is not what he would do if he had means, time, influence, and educational advantages, but what he will do with the things he has. In all history there are few men who have answered this question. Among them none have answered it more effectively than he whom we have gathered to honor to-night — David Livingstone.
The term “social service,” which is on every one’s lips now, was as yet uncoined when David Livingstone was born. But it was none the less true, that without overmuch prating of the ideal which is held up to the man of to-day as the only one worth striving for, the sturdy pioneers of Livingstone’s day and ilk realized to the highest the ideal of man’s duty to his fellow-man.
The life of David Livingstone is familiar to all of you. From your childhood you have known the brief data of his days. He was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, March 19, 1813. He began working in a cotton-factory at the age of ten, and for ten years thence, educated himself, reading Latin, Greek, and finally pursuing a course of medicine and theology in which he graduated. In 1840, firmly believing in his call, he offered his services to the London Missionary Society, by whom he was ordained, and sent as a medical missionary to South Africa, where he commenced his labors. In 1849, he discovered Lake Ngami; in 1852, he explored the Zambezi River. In 1856, he discovered the wonderful Victoria Falls, and then returned to England, where he was overwhelmed with honors. In 1857, he published his first book, hardly realizing that it was an epoch-making volume, and that he had made an unprecedented contribution alike to literature, science, and religion. In the same year, he severed his connection with the Missionary society, believing that he could best work unhampered by its restrictions. He was appointed British Consul for the East Coast of Africa, and commander of an expedition to explore Eastern and Central Africa. He discovered the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa in 1859; published his second book during a visit to England, 1864-65. He returned to Africa, started to explore the interior, and was lost to the world for two years. He re-appeared in 1867, having solved the problem of the sources of the Nile. From then until 1871, when he was found by Stanley, suffering the most pitiful privations, his was a record of important discoveries and explorations. After parting with Stanley in 1872, he continued his explorations, and died in 1873. His body was interred in Westminster Abbey in 1874.
This is a meagre account of the life of David Livingstone. The romance and wonder of it do not appear on the surface; the splendor of the heroic soul is lost in the dry chronology of dates; the marvelous achievement of self-sacrifice is not visible. Yet the wildest fantasies of medieval troubadours pale into insignificance when placed side by side with the life-story of David Livingstone.
What has this modern romance in it for the man of to-day? An infinity of example, of hope, of the gleam to follow. The most salient thing about Livingstone’s early life is the toil and the privation which he endured gladly, in order to accomplish that which he had set himself to do. Listen to his own words in describing the long hours spent in the cotton-mill. Here he kept up his studies by placing his book on the top of the machine, so that he could catch sentence after sentence as he passed his work, learning how completely to abstract his mind from the noises about him. “Looking back now on that life of toil, I cannot but feel thankful that it formed such a material part of my early education, and were it possible, I would like to begin life over again in the same lowly style, and to pass through the same hardy training.”
I wonder how many of the modern men, whose privations in early life in no wise approached those of our hero look back with gratitude upon their early days? Are we not prone to excuse and condone our shortcomings, either of character or of achievement, by murmuring at the hard fate which deprived us of those advantages which more fortunate brothers and sisters enjoyed in infancy and youth? Do we not to-day swing too far in the direction of sickly sentimentality and incline to wrap ourselves, and those about us, in the deadening cotton-wool of too much care? Were it not better if a bit more of the leaven of sturdy struggle were introduced into the life of the present-day youth? Strength of character and strength of soul will rise to their own, no matter what the struggles be to force them upward.
In keeping with this studious concentration which is shown in his work in the cotton-mill, was Livingstone’s ideal of thorough preparation for his work. On his first missionary journey, before penetrating into the interior, he stopped at a little station, Lepelole, and there for six months cut himself off from all European society in order to gain an insight into the habits, ways of thinking, laws, and language of the natives. To this he ascribed most of his success as a missionary and explorer, for Livingstone’s way was ever the gentle method of those who comprehend — not the harsh cruelty of those who feel superior to the ones among whom they work. In a day whose superficiality is only equalled by the ease with which we gloze over the faults of the unprepared, this bit of information of Livingstone’s preparation comes like a refreshing reminder that true worth is always worth while.
When Livingstone gave up his purely missionary labors and turned his life channel into the stream of scientific investigation, the same thoroughness of preparation is shown. He did not work for immediate results, attained by shallow touching of the surface, or for hasty conclusions. His was the close observation and careful and accurate deductions of the mind trained by science to be patient and await results. Rather than be inaccurate, he would wait until he knew he was correct. A quarter of a century after Livingstone died a compatriot of his, Robert Louis Stevenson, said that among the hardest tasks that life sets for a man is “to await occasions, and hurry never.” Livingstone learned this thoroughly.
In keeping with the quietness, simplicity, and thoroughness of this truly great man was the meeting between him and Stanley when that redoubtable youth found him in the heart of the Dark Continent. Life is essentially a dramatic thing, for as Carlyle says, “Is not every deathbed the fifth act of a tragedy?” But I sometimes think that we miss the drama and poetry of every-day life because it seems so commonplace. We look abroad and afar for great moments, and great moments pass unheeded each hour. So to those two — the toil-worn and weary explorer and the youthful Stanley, full of enthusiasm, albeit dimmed by the hardships and disappointments of his long search, that moment of first meeting must have seemed essentially commonplace. There was a wonder in the encounter, but like all great emotions and great occasions there was a simplicity, so that the greetings were as commonplace as if occurring in a crowded street. Thirty years had passed since the explorer had dedicated himself to the task of making the world know Africa, and he was an old man, worn-out, bent, frail, and sorrow-stricken. But courage was unfaltering, faith undimmed, power unabated. Had Stanley been a few months later, much of his work would have been lost, and his death even more pitiful than it was — yet he could smile and be patient and unhurried.
As Stanley phrases it, “Suppose Livingstone, following the custom of other travellers, had hurried to the coast, after he had discovered Lake Bangweolo, to tell the news to the geographical world; then had returned to discover Moero, and run away again, then come back once more to discover Kamolondo, and to race back again. But no, he not only discovers the Chambezi, Lake Bangweolo, Luapula River, Lake Moero, Lualaba River, and Lake Kamolondo, but he still tirelessly urges his steps forward to put the final completion to the map of the grand lacustrine river system. Had he followed the example of ordinary explorers, he would have been running backwards and forwards to tell the news, instead of exploring, and he might have been able to write a volume upon the discovery of each lake and earn much money thereby.”
This was no negative exploration. It was the hard, earnest labor of years, self-abnegation, enduring patience, and exalted fortitude, such as ordinary men fail to exhibit. And he had achieved a wonderful deed. The finding of the poles, north and south, is no greater feat than his. For, after all, what is it to humanity that the magnetic pole, north or south, is a few degrees east or west of a certain point in the frozen seas and barren ice mountains? What can humanity offer as a reward to those whose bodies lie under cairns of ice save a barren recognition of their heroism? What have their lives served, beyond that of examples of heroism and determination? Bronze tablets will record their deeds, but no races will arise in future years to call them blessed. Cold marble will enshrine their memory; but there will be no fair commerce, nor civilization, nor the thankful prayers of those who have been led to know God.
In his earlier years of exploration, Livingstone became convinced that the success of the white missionary in a field like Africa is not to be reckoned by the tale of doubtful conversions he can send home each year, that the proper work of such men was that of pioneering, opening up, starting new ground, leaving native agents to work it out in detail. The whole of his subsequent career was a carrying out of this idea. It was the idea of commerce, bringing the virgin country within the reach of the world, putting the natives in that relation to the rest of humanity which would most nearly make for their efficiency, if not in their own generation, at least in the next. Shall we not say that this is the truest ideal of social service — to plan, not for the present, but for the future; to be content, not with the barren achievement of exploration, the satisfaction that comes with the saying, “I am the first who has trod this soil!” but to be able to say, “Through me, generations may be helped?”
Says a biographer of Dr. Livingstone, “His work in exploration is marked by rare precision and by a breadth of observation which will make it forever a monument to the name of one of the most intrepid travellers of the nineteenth century. His activity embraced the field of the geographer, naturalist, benefactor of mankind, and it can justly be said that his labors were the first to lift the veil from the ‘Dark Continent.’”
During the thirty years of his work he explored alone over one-third of the vast continent; a feat which no single explorer has ever equalled. But it must be remembered that even though he had severed his connection with the missionary society that he regarded himself to the last as a “Pioneer Missionary.”
One of the most fascinating subjects of controversy since the time of Herodotus was the problem of the source of the Nile. Poetry, from the description of the Garden of Eden and the writings of Ptolemy to the Kubla Kahn of Coleridge, ran rife over the four fountains out of which flowed the wonderful river. To Livingstone was reserved the supreme honor of settling for all time the secret of this most poetic river of mystery. Long ere this he had been honored with a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society. How futile must the bit of metal have seemed to this dark, silent man, whose mind had grown away from bauble and tinsel, and who had learned in the silences the real value of the trinkets of the world.
When he had discovered the Victoria Falls, he had completed in two years and a half the most remarkable and most fruitful journey on record, reconstructed the map of Africa, and given the world some of the most valuable land it ever could possess. The vast commercial fields of ivory were opened up to trade; the magnificent power of the Victoria Falls laid bare to the sight of civilized man. We can imagine him standing on the brink of the thunderous cataract of the Victoria gazing at its waters as they dashed and roared over the brink of the precipice,
To this man, who had opened up a continent; who had penetrated not only into the heart of the forest, but had made himself one with the savages who were its denizens; who knew and understood them as human beings, and not as beasts, the slavery trade was, as he expressed it, “the open sore of Africa.” Over and again he voiced his belief that the Negro freeman was a hundred times more valuable than the slave. He repeatedly enjoined those who had the fitting out of his expeditions not to send him slaves to accompany him on his journeys, but freemen, as they were more trustworthy. He voiced the fundamental truth that he who is his own master is he who obeys and believes in his master.
The slave trade in Africa was dealt its death-blow by Dr. Livingstone. Portugal had foisted the shame of centuries upon the Dark Continent, and openly defied decency and honor. Livingstone’s example and his death acted like an inspiration, filling Africa with an army of explorers and missionaries, and raising in Europe so powerful a feeling against the slave trade that it may be considered as having received its death-blow. Dear to his heart was Lincoln, the Emancipator, an ideal hero whom he consistently revered. Away to the southwest from Kamolondo is a large lake which discharges its waters by the important river, Lomami, into the great Lualaba. To this lake, known as the Chobungo by the natives, Dr. Livingstone gave the name of Lincoln, in memory of him for whom your noble institution was named. This was done because of a vivid impression produced on his mind by hearing a portion of Lincoln’s inauguration speech from an English pulpit, which related to the causes that induced him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. To the memory of the man whom Livingstone revered he has contributed a monument more durable than brass or stone.
This strange, seemingly almost ascetic man sets before us of to-day an almost impossible standard of living. One idea mastered him — to give Africa to the world. His life was a success, as all lives must be which have a single aim. Life was clear, elemental almost to him, and to the man whose ambition is a unit; who sees but one goal, shining clearly ahead, success is inevitable, though it may be masked under the guise of poverty and hardship. Livingstone had a higher and nobler ambition than the mere pecuniary sum he might receive, or the plaudits of the unthinking multitude; he followed the dictates of duty. Never was such a willing slave to that abstract virtue. His inclination impelled him home, the fascinations of which it required the sternest resolves to resist. With every foot of new ground he travelled over, he forged a chain of sympathy which should hereafter bind all other nations to Africa. If he were able to complete this chain, a chain of love, by actual discovery and description of the people and nations that still lived in darkness, so as to attract the good and charitable of his own land to bestir themselves for their redemption and salvation — this, Livingstone would consider an ample reward. “A delirious and fatuous enterprise, a Quixotic scheme!” some will say. Not so; he builded better than even he knew or dared hope, and posterity will reap the reward.
The missionary starting out must resolve to bear poverty, suffering, hardship, and, if need be, to lose his life. The explorer must resolve to be impervious to exquisite little tortures, to forget comforts, and be a stranger to luxuries; to lose his life, even, in order that the world may add another line or dot to its maps. The explorer-missionary must do all these things, and add to them the zeal for others that shall illumine his labors, and make him at one with God. David Livingstone had all these qualities, coupled with the sublime indifference of the truly great to the mere side issues of life. You and I sit down to our comfortable meals, sleep in our well-appointed beds, read our Bibles with perfunctory boredom, and babble an occasional prayer for those who endure hardships — when we are reminded from the pulpit to do so. When we read of some awful calamity, such as has blazoned across the pages of history within the past few weeks, we shudder that men should lay down their lives in the barren wastes of ice. When we read of the thirty years of steady suffering which Livingstone endured in the forests of Africa, the littleness of our own lives comes home to us with awful realization. You who fear to walk the streets with a coat of last year’s cut, listen to his half whimsical account of how he “came to the Cape in 1852, with a black coat eleven years out of fashion, and Mrs. Livingstone and the children half naked.” You who shudder at the tale of a starving child in the papers, and lamely wonder why the law allows such things, read his recital of the sufferings of his wife and little ones during the days without water under a tropic sun, and of the splendid heroism of the mother who did not complain, and the father who did not dare meet her eye, for fear of the unspoken reproach therein.
He was never in sufficient funds, and what little means he could gather here and there were often stolen from him, or he found himself cheated out of what few supplies he could get together to carry on his travels. Months of delay occurred, and sometimes it seemed that all his labors and struggles would end in futility; that the world would be little better for his sufferings; yet that patient, Christian fortitude sustained him with unfaltering courage through the most distressing experiences. Disease, weakening, piteous, unromantic, unheroic, wasted his form; ulcers, sores, horrible and hideous, made his progress slow and his work sometimes a painful struggle over what many a man would have deemed impossible barriers. The loss of his wife came to him twelve years after she had elected to cast in her lot with his, but like Brutus of old, he could exclaim,
Stanley could but marvel at such patience. On that memorable day when they met, and the younger man gave the doctor his letters, he tells how “Livingstone kept the letter-bag on his knee, then, presently opened it, looked at the letters contained there, read one or two of his children’s letters, his face in the meanwhile lighting up. He asked me to tell him the news, “No, Doctor,” said I, “read your letters first, which I am sure you must be impatient to read.” “Ah,” said he, “I have waited years for letters, and I have been taught patience.”
To you, of the younger generation, what a marvel, what a world of meaning in those words — “I have been taught patience.” We, who fret and chafe because the whole world will not bend its will to our puny strivings, and turn its whole course that we might have our unripe desires fulfilled, should read and re-read of the man who could wait, because he knew that time and all eternity would be bent to meet his desires in time.
Livingstone’s is a character that we cannot help but venerate; that calls forth all one’s enthusiasm; that evokes nothing but sincerest admiration. He was sensitive, but so is any man of a high mind and generous nature; he was sensitive on the point of being doubted or criticised by the easy-chair geographers, lolling comfortably in their clubs and scanning through their monocles the maps which the hard working travellers had made. He was humble-souled, as are all the truly great. His gentleness never forsook him; his hopefulness never deserted him. No harassing anxiety, distraction of mind, long separation from home and kindred, could make him complain. He thought all would come out right at last, such faith had he in the goodness of Providence. The sport of adverse circumstances; the plaything of the miserable slaves, which were persistently sent him from Zanzibar, baffled and worried, even almost to the grave; yet he would not desert the charge imposed upon him. To the stern dictates of duty alone did he sacrifice his home and ease, the pleasures, refinements, and luxuries of civilized life. His was the Spartan heroism, the inflexibility of the Roman, the enduring heroism of the Englishman — never to relinquish his work, though his heart yearned for home; never to surrender his obligations, until he could write “Finis” to his work.
Yet who shall say that the years spent alone at the very heart of Nature had not made him the possessor of that “inward eye,” which, as Wordsworth says, “is the bliss of solitude.” For many years he lived in Africa deprived of books, and yet when Stanley found him, he learned to his surprise, that Livingstone could still recite whole poems from Byron, Burns, Tennyson, Longfellow, and other great poets. The reason is found in the fact that all his life he lived within himself. He lived in a world in which he revolved inwardly, out of which he awoke only to attend to his immediate practical necessities. It was a happy inner world, peopled with his own friends, acquaintances, relatives, readings, ideas, and associations. Blessed is the man who has found the inner life more real than the trivial outer one. To him mere external annoyances are but as the little insects, which he may brush away at will. No man can be truly great who has not built up for himself a subjective world into which he may retire at will. The little child absorbed in a mythical land peopled by fairies and Prince Charmings is nearest to possessing such an inner life; and we must become as little children. To some it is a God-given gift; others may acquire it, as Jack London tells us, by “going into the waste places, and there sitting down with our souls.” There comes then, the overwhelming realization of the charms and beauties of nature — man is a pygmy, an abstraction, an unreality. This had come to our hero. Added to the strength of his inner life Livingstone had the deep sympathy with Nature in all her moods. He became enthusiastic when he described the beauties of the Moero scenery. The splendid mountains, tropical vegetation, thundering cataracts, noble rivers, stirred his soul into poetic expression. His tired spirit expanded in the presence of the charms of nature. He could never pass through an African forest, with its solemn stillness and serenity, without wishing to be buried quietly under the dead leaves where he would be sure to rest undisturbed. In England, there was no elbow-room, the graves were often desecrated, and ever since he had buried his wife in the woods of Shupanga, he had sighed for just such a spot, where his weary bones would receive the eternal rest they coveted. But even this last wish was denied him, and the noisy honors and crowded crypt of Westminster Abbey claimed him, far away from the splendid solitude he craved. All Africa should have been his tomb. He should never have been forced to share with hundreds of others a meagre and scant resting-place. Yet there is food for rejoicing in the knowledge, that though his body was borne away, his heart was buried by his beloved natives in the forest.
The study of Dr. Livingstone would not be even superficially complete if we did not take the religious side of his character into consideration. By religion, we do not mean the faith he professed, the particular tenets he believed, the especial catechism he studied, or any hair-splitting doctrine he might have upheld, but that deeper ethical side of manhood, without which there can be no true manhood. Livingstone’s religion was not of the theoretical kind, but it was a constant, earnest, sincere practise. It was neither demonstrative nor loud, but manifested itself in a quiet, practical way, and was always at work. It was not aggressive, nor troublesome, nor impertinent. In him, religion exhibited its loveliest features; it governed his conduct not only towards his servants, but towards the natives, the bigoted Mohammedans, and all with whom he came in contact. Without it, Livingstone, with his ardent temperament, his enthusiasm, his high spirit and courage, must have become uncompanionable, and a hard master. Religion had tamed him, and made him a Christian gentleman; the crude and wilful were refined and subdued; religion had made him the most companionable of men and indulgent of masters — a man whose society was pleasurable to a high degree.
If his life held for us no other message than this, it would hold enough. Unfortunately the youth of to-day is apt to chafe when the ideal of Christianity and manly religion is held up to him. He thinks of the religious man as a milksop, a mollycoddle. He cannot associate him in his mind with the doing of great deeds, the thinking of great thoughts. His ideal of manhood is the ruthless Man on Horseback, with too often a disregard of the sacred things of life. Sometimes, if the youth of to-day thinks at all, he runs riot into ethics, forgetting that, after all, there could be no ethics without a firm base of religion. And so he wastes many precious years before he learns that all the greatest men whom the world has known drew their strength and power from the unseen and the spiritual.
We have noticed that Livingstone’s religion was not aggressive nor impertinent. Early in his career as a missionary, he recognized the truth that if he were to exercise any influence on the native Africans, it would not be by bringing to them an abstraction in place of their own savage ideals. His influence depended entirely upon persuasion, and by awakening within their minds the sense of right and wrong. “We never wished them to do right,” he says, “because it would be pleasing to us, nor think themselves to blame when they did wrong.” Worldly affairs, and temporal benefits with the natives were paramount, so he did not force abstractions upon them but, with a keen insight into human nature, as well as into savage human nature, he reached their higher selves through the more worldly.
His was a pure and tender-hearted nature, full of humanity and sympathy, modest as a maiden, unconscious of his own greatness, with the simplicity we have noted before, the simplicity of the truly great. His soul could be touched to its depths by the atrocities of the Arab slave-traders, yet he forgot his own sufferings in the desire to make others immune from suffering. He had but one rule of life, that which he gave to the Scotch school children, whom he once addressed:
“Fear God and work hard!”
It is one hundred years since this quiet, high-souled man was given the world, in the little Scotch village, and yet another hundred may pass away and still his life will be as a clarion call to the youth of the world to emulate his manhood. For the world needs men now, as it never needed them before,
Such a man was Livingstone, not afraid to be meek in order to be great; not afraid to “fear God and work hard;” not ashamed to stoop in order that he might raise others to his high estate. He gave the world a continent and a conscience; with the lavishness almost of Nature herself he bestowed cataracts and rivers, lakes and mountains, forests and valleys, upon his native land. He stirred the soul of the civilized world to the atrocities of the slave trade, and he made it realize that humanity may be found even in the breast of a savage. When he laid down his life in the forest he loved, he laid upon the altar of humanity and science the costliest and sweetest sacrifice that it had known for many a weary age.
What message has this life for us to-day, we the commonplace, the mediocre, the unknown to fame and fortune? Shall we fold our hands when we read of such heroes and say, “Ah, yes, he could be great, but I? I am weak and humble, I have not the opportunity?” Who was more humble than the poor boy spinning in the cotton-mill; who was less constrained by Fortune’s frowns than the humble missionary? His life brings to us the message of doing well with that little we have.
We cannot all be with Peary at the North Pole, nor die the death of the hero, Scott, on the frozen Antarctic continent. It is not given to us to be explorers; it is not given us to be pioneers; we may not discover vast continents, name great lakes, nor gaze with wonder-stricken eyes upon the rolling of a mighty unknown river. But to each and all of us comes the divine opportunity to carve for himself a niche, be it ever so tiny, in the memories of men. We can heed the admonition of Carlyle, “Be no longer a Chaos, but a World, or even a Worldkin. Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a Product, produce it in God’s name! ’Tis the utmost thou hast in thee, out with it then!”
The life of service; the life of unselfish giving — this must Livingstone’s life mean to us. Unselfish, ungrudging lavishing of life and soul, even to the last drop of heart’s blood. Service that does not hesitate because the task seems small, or the waiting weary; service that does not fear to be of no account in the eyes of the world. Truly, indeed, might Wordsworth’s apostrophe to Milton be ascribed to him:
By Robert E. Jones, LL. D.
Editor Southwestern Christian Advocate, New Orleans, La.
I have a story to relate, and at once I want to present to you my hero, — a hero more inspiring than Achilles of the “Iliad,” or Odysseus of the “Odyssey,” or Æneas of the “Æneid.”
My hero is not a myth, not a creation of literature, not a tradition, but not unlike the Grecian hero in that he sprung from the union of a god and a mortal. My hero is not reckoned among the high and mighty nor will his name ever be carved on stone or raised on bronze. Neither has my hero accomplished startling feats. As a hero he may be a paradox. Inconspicuous, humble in station, modest, hid far away from the maddening, jealous, curious, bickering, taunting, striving, restless crowd of life. Too long already I have held him from you. His name? I do not know. His birthplace? I do not know. His age? I do not know. Is he living now? Here my ignorance is painful. I do not know. My hero, however, is an actual man of flesh and blood. I met him but twice in life, but was so charmed I did not ask his name. His personality thrilled and he in a measure has become my patron saint. He is not a hero of large and commanding stature, but a cripple — doubly so. His arms were palsied and turned in so that he could not use a crutch, his lower limbs turned in also. He sat in an ordinary cane-bottomed chair and could easily move himself about by throwing the weight of his body from one back leg of the chair to the other, lifting the front legs at the same time. I saw him along the train side at Spartanburg, S. C.
A beggar? No, my young friends, beggars are seldom heroes. He was a merchant prince. He carried his goods around his neck and shoulders and in his outer coat pockets. He was selling shoe-strings and pencils. If you gave him a dime he would insist on your taking one or both of the articles he had for sale. In his activities he was a fine lesson of the first requirement of life. He was self-sustaining. By the sweat of his brow he earned his bread.
Did he complain of his lot? Not a bit of it. His handicap he did not make nor could undo. He therefore accepted his condition philosophically; he was self-respecting. He knew his limitations; he knew what he could do and what he could not do; he was self-knowing. Knowing his handicap and that it was quite unlike any other man’s and that he needed a means of locomotion, he found it; he had, therefore, initiative. He leaned not upon the strength of others, but used his own resources; he was therefore self-reliant. He did not wait for business to come to him, he put himself in the path of business; he was a hustler. He saw life through a cheerful lens and kept a stout heart; he was optimistic. He recognized his own personality apart from the personalities of the crowded throng through which he passed; he was a self-contented individual. He had but one life to live and he was making the most of life. When I left him I crowned him, honored him, and I love him for his worth as a true man.
When once away from my hero, as I thought of him in my deepest soul, I cried:
“Thou art my chastiser and my inspirator. Thou art simple yet great; untaught thyself, thou art the teacher of all. Henceforth thou shalt be my hero and guide. Doubting myself, bemoaning my limitations, depressed by my failure, ashamed of my achievements, my seeing you has given me a new interpretation of life. I own you my friend, my life’s inspiration and hero.”
There is my hero. You ask his color? What difference does it make? Men have often refused to recognize worth because of color. But to satisfy you I will tell you. He is a Negro. Give a seat of honor to my hero. Gather inspiration and learn from him the lessons of life, if you will. Here is an individual doubly afflicted, without a word of complaint, or a fret or whine, depending upon his own initiative and resources, making the most of life under the circumstances which surround him.
Upon the basis of what has been said, in closing this address to the graduating Class of 1913 of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute I desire to offer a personal word:
In the first place, you will know a year from now, more than you can realize at this present moment, that this is a commencement. This is not the climax of your life. It is but the beginning, and however paradoxical it may seem, you are not at the top of the ladder, you are at the foot. We are here to applaud you to-day not so much on what you have already accomplished as to give you a send-off for the strenuous tasks that lie before you. To be frank with you, young men and young women, the life in earnest that awaits you without will tax every bit of your strength. Your moral strength will be drawn upon, as well as your intellectual resources.
Secondly; had I my way I would have each of you burn your diploma and never refer to it as an indication of what you are and what you know. Do not attempt to pass through the world on your diploma or your class standing. The world cares little for these. I would urge that you prove to the world what you are by what you can do — that you let your achievements point to your diploma.
Thirdly; you go forth to-day as a representative of this institution, mantled with all the sacred honors, prestige, and commendation that this institution, State, and your admirers can bestow. See to it that you keep the honors of this hour unsoiled and that you disgrace not the noble history of your alma mater.
Fourthly; I do not believe that this institution is fostered with the idea that the few students who gather here from time to time only shall be reached. I rather suspect that the dollars that come from the State and generous friends come with the hope that as you have been helped and lifted to culture and refinement, you in turn will carry culture to those who may never be permitted to stay in these walls. You are to carry light into dark places and unto those who sit in darkness. By your arm of strength you are to lift the poor who are beneath you. And then your education comes not for self-culture, not for self-enjoyment, not for self-use, but for the betterment of those who are about you.
Fifthly; you go forth as the embodiment of a new generation. You stand to-day upon the foundation built by those who have gone before you. They have wrought well. By their toil and suffering you are blest. You are to carry your generation one notch higher and thus help the onward march of the world’s progress. Be thou faithful. Lift your eyes heavenward and aspire to do the best and be the noblest according to God’s heritage to you. There are no chosen depths, no prescribed heights to which you may climb.
Make the most of life!
By Prince Saunders
Respected Gentlemen and Friends:
At a period so momentous as the present, when the friends of abolition and emancipation, as well as those whom observation and experience might teach us to beware to whom we should apply the endearing appellations, are professedly concerned for the establishment of an Asylum for those Free Persons of Color, who may be disposed to remove to it, and for such persons as shall hereafter be emancipated from slavery, a careful examination of this subject is imposed upon us.
So large a number of abolitionists, convened from different sections of the country, is at all times and under any circumstances, an interesting spectacle to the eye of the philanthropist, how doubly delightful then is it, to me, whose interests and feelings so largely partake in the object you have in view, to behold this convention engaged in solemn deliberation upon those subjects employed to promote the improvement of the condition of the African race.
Assembled as this convention is, for the promotion and extension of its beneficent and humane views and principles, I would respectfully beg leave to lay before it a few remarks upon the character, condition, and wants of the afflicted and divided people of Hayti, as they, and that island, may be connected with plans for the emigration of the free people of color of the United States.
God in the mysterious operation of his providence has seen fit to permit the most astonishing changes to transpire upon that naturally beautiful and (as to soil and productions) astonishingly luxuriant island.
The abominable principles, both of action and belief, which pervaded France during the long series of vicissitudes which until recently she has experienced, extended to Hayti, or Santo Domingo have undoubtedly had an extensive influence upon the character, sentiments, and feelings of all descriptions of its present inhabitants.
This magnificent and extensive island which has by travellers and historians been often denominated the “paradise of the New World,” seems from its situation, extent, climate, and fertility peculiarly suited to become an object of interest and attention to the many distinguished and enlightened philanthropists whom God has been graciously pleased to inspire with a zeal for the promotion of the best interests of the descendants of Africa. The recent proceedings in several of the slave States toward the free population of color in those States seem to render it highly probable that that oppressed class of the community will soon be obliged to flee to the free States for protection. If the two rival Governments of Hayti were consolidated into one well-balanced pacific power, there are many hundred of the free people in the New England and Middle States who would be glad to repair there immediately to settle, and believing that the period has arrived, when many zealous friends to abolition and emancipation are of opinion that it is time for them to act in relation to an asylum for such persons as shall be emancipated from slavery, or for such portion of the free colored population at present existing in the United States, as shall feel disposed to emigrate, and being aware that the authorities of Hayti are themselves desirous of receiving emigrants from this country, are among the considerations which have induced me to lay this subject before the convention.
The present spirit of rivalry which exists between the two chiefs in the French part of the island, and the consequent belligerent aspect and character of the country, may at first sight appear somewhat discouraging to the beneficent views and labors of the friends of peace; but these I am inclined to think are by no means to be considered as insurmountable barriers against the benevolent exertions of those Christian philanthropists whose sincere and hearty desire it is to reunite and pacify them.
There seems to be no probability of their ever being reconciled to each other without the philanthropic interposition and mediation of those who have the welfare of the African race at heart. And where, in the whole circle of practical Christian philanthropy and active beneficence, is there so ample a field for the exertion of those heaven-born virtues as in that hitherto distracted region? In those unhappy divisions which exist in Hayti is strikingly exemplified the saying which is written in the sacred oracles, “that when men forsake the true worship and service of the only true God, and bow down to images of silver, and gold, and four-footed beasts and creeping things, and become contentious with each other,” says the inspired writer, “in such a state of things trust ye not a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom; for there the son dishonoreth the father, and the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies shall be those of his own house.”
Had the venerable prophet in the foregoing predictions alluded expressly and entirely to the actual moral, political, and above all, to the religious character and condition of the Haytians, he could scarcely have given a more correct description of it.
For there is scarcely a family whose members are not separated from each other, and arrayed under the banners of the rival chiefs, in virtual hostility against each other. In many instances the husband is with Henry, and the wife and children with Boyer, and there are other instances in which the heads of the family are with Boyer, and the other members with Henry.
Let it be distinctly remembered, that these divided and distressed individuals are not permitted to hold any intercourse with each other; so that it is only when some very extraordinary occurrence transpires, that persons in the different sections of the country receive any kind of information from their nearest relatives and friends.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” is the language of that celestial law-giver, who taught as never man taught; and his religion uniformly assures the obedient recipients of his spirit, that they shall be rewarded according to the extent, fidelity, and sincerity of their works of piety and beneficence.
And if, according to the magnitude of the object in all its political, benevolent, humane, and Christian relations, the quantum of recompense is to be awarded and apprised to the just, to how large a share of the benediction of our blessed Savior to the promoters of peace shall those be authorized to expect who may be made the instruments of the pacification and reunion of the Haytian people? Surely the blessings of thousands who are, as it were, ready to perish, must inevitably come upon them.
When I reflect that it was in this city that the first abolition society that was formed in the world was established, I am strongly encouraged to hope, that here also there may originate a plan, which shall be the means of restoring many of our fellow beings to the embraces of their families and friends, and place that whole country upon the basis of unanimity and perpetual peace.
If the American Convention should in their wisdom think it expedient to adopt measures for attempting to affect a pacification of the Haytians, it is most heartily believed, that their benevolent views would be hailed and concurred in with alacrity and delight by the English philanthropists.
It is moreover believed that a concern so stupendous in its relations, and bearing upon the cause of universal abolition and emancipation, and to the consequent improvement and elevation of the African race, would tend to awaken an active and a universally deep and active interest in the minds of that numerous host of abolitionists in Great Britain, whom we trust have the best interests of the descendants of Africa deeply at heart.
By James McCune Smith, M. A., M. D.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Whilst the orgies of the French revolution thrust forward a being whose path was by rivers of blood, the horrors of Santo Domingo produced one who was pre-eminently a peacemaker — Toussaint L’Ouverture.
In estimating the character of Toussaint L’Ouverture, regard must be paid, not to the enlightened age in which he lived, but to the rank in society from which he sprang — a rank which must be classed with a remote and elementary age of mankind.
Born forty-seven years before the commencement of the revolt, he had reached the prime of manhood, a slave, with a soul uncontaminated by the degradation which surrounded him. Living in a state of society where worse than polygamy was actually urged, we find him at this period faithful to one wife — the wife of his youth — and the father of an interesting family. Linked with such tender ties, and enlightened with some degree of education, which his indulgent master, M. Bayou, had given him, he fulfilled, up to the moment of the revolt, the duties of a Christian man in slavery.
At the time of the insurrection — in which he took no part — he continued in the peaceable discharge of his duties as coachman; and when the insurgents approached the estate whereon he lived, he accomplished the flight of M. Bayou, whose kind treatment (part of this kindness was teaching this slave to read and write) he repaid by forwarding to him produce for his maintenance while in exile in these United States.
Having thus faithfully acquitted himself as a slave, he turned towards the higher destinies which awaited him as a freeman. With a mind stored with patient reflection upon the biographies of men, the most eminent in civil and military affairs; and deeply versed in the history of the most remarkable revolutions that had yet occurred amongst mankind, he entered the army of the insurgents under Jean François. This chief rapidly promoted him to the offices of physician to the forces, aid-de-camp, and colonel. Jean François, in alliance with the Spaniards, maintained war at this time for the cause of royalty.
Whilst serving under this chief, Toussaint beheld another civil war agitating the French colony. On one side, the French Commissioners, who had acknowledged the emancipation of the slaves, maintained war for the Republic; on the other side, the old noblesse, or planters, fought under the royal banner, having called in the aid of the British forces in order to re-establish slavery and the ancient regime.
In this conflict, unmindful of their solemn oaths against the decree of the 15th of May, 1791, the whites of both parties, including the planters, hesitated not to fight in the same ranks, shoulder to shoulder, with the blacks. Caste was forgotten in the struggle for principles!
At this juncture Jean François, accompanied by his principal officers, and possessed of all the honors and emoluments of a captain-general in the service of his Catholic Majesty, retired to Spain, leaving Toussaint at liberty to choose his party. Almost immediately joining that standard which acknowledged and battled for equal rights to all men, he soon rendered signal service to the Commissioners, by driving the Spaniards from the northern, and by holding the British at bay in the eastern part of the island. For these services he was raised to the rank of general by the French commander at Porte-aux-Paix, General Laveaux, a promotion which he soon repaid by saving that veteran's life under the following circumstances: Villate, a mulatto general, envious of the honors bestowed on Toussaint, treacherously imprisoned General Laveaux in Cape François. Immediately upon hearing this fact, Toussaint hastened to the Cape at the head of 10,000 men and liberated his benefactor. And, at the very moment of his liberation, a commission arrived from France appointing General Laveaux Governor of the Colony; his first official act was to proclaim Toussaint his lieutenant. “This is the black,” said Laveaux, “predicted by Raynal, and who is destined to avenge the outrages committed against his whole race.” A remark soon verified, for on his attainment of the supreme power, Toussaint avenged those injuries — by forgiveness!
As an acknowledgment for his eminent services against the British, and against the mulattoes, who, inflamed with all the bitterness of caste, had maintained a sanguinary war under their great leader Rigaud, in the southern part of the colony, the Commissioners invested Toussaint with the office and dignity of general-in-chief of Santo Domingo.
From that moment began the full development of the vast and versatile genius of this extraordinary man. Standing amid the terrible, because hostile, fragments of two revolutions, harassed by the rapacious greed of commissioners upon commissioners, who, successively dispatched from France, hid beneath a republican exterior a longing after the spoils; with an army in the field accustomed by five years’ experience to all the license of civil war, Toussaint, with a giant hand, seized the reins of government, reduced these conflicting elements to harmony and order, and raised the colony to nearly its former prosperity, his lofty intellect always delighting to effect its object rather by the tangled mazes of diplomacy than by the strong arm of physical force, yet maintaining a steadfast and unimpeached adherence to truth, his word, and his honor.
General Maitland, commander of the British forces, finding the reduction of the island to be utterly hopeless, signed a treaty with Toussaint for the evacuation of all the posts which he held. “Toussaint then paid him a visit, and was received with military honors. After partaking of a grand entertainment, he was presented by General Maitland, in the name of His Majesty, with a splendid service of plate, and put in possession of the government-house which had been built and furnished by the English.”
Buonaparte, on becoming First Consul, sent out the confirmation of Toussaint as commander-in-chief, who, with views infinitely beyond the short-sighted and selfish vision of the Commissioners, proclaimed a general amnesty to the planters who had fled during the revolutions, earnestly invited their return to the possession of their estates, and, with a delicate regard to their feelings, decreed that the epithet “emigrant” should not be applied to them. Many of the planters accepted the invitation, and returned to the peaceful possession of their estates.
In regard to the army of Toussaint, General Lacroix, one of the planters who returned, affirms “that never was a European army subjected to a more rigid discipline than that which was observed by the troops of Toussaint.” Yet this army was converted by the commander-in-chief into industrious laborers, by the simple expedient of paying them for their labor. “When he restored many of the planters to their estates, there was no restoration of their former property in human beings. No human being was to be bought or sold. Severe tasks, flagellations, and scanty food were no longer to be endured. The planters were obliged to employ their laborers on the footing of hired servants.” “And under this system,” says Lacroix, “the colony advanced, as if by enchantment towards its ancient splendor; cultivation was extended with such rapidity that every day made its progress more perceptible. All appeared to be happy, and regarded Toussaint as their guardian angel. In making a tour of the island, he was hailed by the blacks with universal joy, nor was he less a favorite of the whites.”
Toussaint, having effected a bloodless conquest of the Spanish territory, had now become commander of the entire island. Performing all the executive duties, he made laws to suit the exigency of the times. His Egeria was temperance accompanied with a constant activity of body and mind.
The best proof of the entire success of his government is contained in the comparative views of the exports of the island, before the revolutions, and during the administration of Toussaint. Bear in mind that, “before the revolution there were 450,000 slave laborers working with a capital in the shape of buildings, mills, fixtures, and implements, which had been accumulating during a century. Under Toussaint there were 290,000 free laborers, many of them just from the army or the mountains, working on plantations that had undergone the devastation of insurrection and a seven years’ war.”
In consequence of the almost entire cessation of official communication with France, and for other reasons equally good, Toussaint thought it necessary for the public welfare to frame a new constitution for the government of the island. With the aid of M. Pascal, Abbe Moliere, and Marinit, he drew up a constitution, and submitted the same to a General Assembly convened from every district, and by that assembly the constitution was adopted. It was subsequently promulgated in the name of the people. And, on the 1st of July, 1801, the island was declared to be an independent State, in which all men, without regard to complexion or creed, possessed equal rights.
This proceeding was subsequently sanctioned by Napoleon Buonaparte, whilst First Consul. In a letter to Toussaint, he says, “We have conceived for you esteem, and we wish to recognize and proclaim the great services you have rendered the French people. If their colors fly on Santo Domingo, it is to you and your brave blacks that we owe it. Called by your talents and the force of circumstances to the chief command, you have terminated the civil war, put a stop to the persecutions of some ferocious men, and restored to honor the religion and the worship of God, from whom all things come. The situation in which you were placed, surrounded on all sides by enemies, and without the mother country being able to succor or sustain you, has rendered legitimate the articles of that constitution.”
Although Toussaint enforced the duties of religion, he entirely severed the connection between Church and State. He rigidly enforced all the duties of morality, and would not suffer in his presence even the approach to indecency of dress or manner. “Modesty,” said he, “is the defense of woman.”
The chief, nay the idol of an army of 100,000 well-trained and acclimated troops ready to march or sail where he wist, Toussaint refrained from raising the standard of liberty in any one of the neighboring island, at a time when, had he been fired with what men term ambition, he could easily have revolutionized the entire archipelago of the west. But his thoughts were bent on conquest of another kind; he was determined to overthrow an error which designing and interested men had craftily instilled into the civilized world, — a belief in the natural inferiority of the Negro race. It was the glory and the warrantable boast of Toussaint that he had been the instrument of demonstrating that, even with the worst odds against them, this race is entirely capable of achieving liberty and of self-government. He did more: by abolishing caste he proved the artificial nature of such distinctions, and further demonstrated that even slavery cannot unfit men for the full exercise of all the functions which belong to free citizens.
“Some situations of trust were filled by free Negroes and mulattoes, who had been in respectable circumstances under the old Government; but others were occupied by Negroes, and even by Africans, who had recently emerged from the lowest condition of slavery.”
But the bright and happy state of things which the genius of Toussaint had almost created out of elements the most discordant was doomed to be of short duration. For the dark spirit of Napoleon, glutted, but not satiated with the glory banquet afforded at the expense of Europe and Africa, seized upon this, the most beautiful and happy of the Hesperides, as the next victim of its remorseless rapacity.
With the double intention of getting rid of the republican army, and reducing back to slavery the island of Hayti, he sent out his brother-in-law, General Leclerc, with 26 ships of war and 25,000 men.
Like Leonidas at Thermopylæ, or the Bruce at Bannockburn, Toussaint determined to defend from thraldom his sea-girt isle, made sacred to liberty by the baptism of blood.
On the 28th of January, 1802, Leclerc arrived off the bay of Samana, from the promontory of which Toussaint, in anxious alarm, beheld for the first time in his life so large an armament. “We must all perish,” said he, “all France has come to Santo Domingo!” But this despondency passed away in a moment, and then this man, who had been a kindly-treated slave, prepared to oppose to the last that system which he now considered worse than death.
It is impossible, after so long a tax on your patience, to enter on a detailed narration of the conflict which ensued. The hour of trial served only to develop and ennoble the character of Toussaint, who rose, with misfortune, above the allurements of rank and wealth which were offered as the price of his submission; and the very ties of parental love he yielded to the loftier sentiment of patriotism.
On the 2d of February, a division of Leclerc’s army, commanded by General Rochambeau, an old planter, landed at Fort Dauphin, and ruthlessly murdered many of the inhabitants (freedmen) who, unarmed, had been led by curiosity to the beach, in order to witness the disembarkation of the troops.
Christophe, one of the generals of Toussaint, commanding at Cape François, having resisted the menaces and the flattery of Leclerc, reduced that ill-fated town to ashes, and retired with his troops into the mountains, carrying with him 2,000 of the white inhabitants of the Cape, who were protected from injury during the fierce war which ensued.
Having full possession of the plain of the Cape, Leclerc, with a proclamation of liberty in his hand, in March following re-established slavery with all its former cruelties.
This treacherous movement thickened the ranks of Toussaint, who thenceforward so vigorously pressed his opponent, that as a last resort, Leclerc broke the shackles of the slave, and proclaimed “Liberty and equality to all the inhabitants of Santo Domingo.”
This proclamation terminated the conflict for the time. Christophe and Dessalines, general officers, and at length Toussaint himself, capitulated, and, giving up the command of the island to Leclerc, he retired, at the suggestion of that officer, to enjoy rest and the sweet endearments of his family circle, on one of his estates near Gonaives. At this place he had remained about one month, when, without any adequate cause, Leclerc caused him to be seized, and to be placed on board of a ship of war, in which he was conveyed to France, where, without trial or condemnation, he was imprisoned in a loathsome and unhealthy dungeon. Unaccustomed to the chill and damp of this prison-house, the aged frame of Toussaint gave way, and he died.
In this meagre outline of his life I have presented simply facts, gleaned, for the most part, from the unwilling testimony of his foes, and therefore resting on good authority. The highest encomium on his character is contained in the fact that Napoleon believed that by capturing him he would be able to re-enslave Hayti; and even this encomium is, if possible, rendered higher by the circumstances which afterward transpired, which showed that his principles were so thoroughly disseminated among his brethren, that, without the presence of Toussaint, they achieved that liberty which he had taught them so rightly to estimate.
The capture of Toussaint spread like wild-fire through the island, and his principal officers again took the field. A fierce and sanguinary war ensued, in which the French gratuitously inflicted the most awful cruelties on their prisoners, many of whom having been hunted with bloodhounds, were carried in ships to some distance from the shore, murdered in cold blood, and cast into the sea; their corpses were thrown by the waves back upon the beach, and filled the air with pestilence, by which the French troops perished in large numbers. Leclerc having perished by pestilence, his successor, Rochambeau, when the conquest of the island was beyond possibility, became the cruel perpetrator of these bloody deeds.
Thus it will be perceived that treachery and massacre were begun on the side of the French. I place emphasis on these facts in order to endeavor to disabuse the public mind of an attempt to attribute to emancipation the acts of retaliation resorted to by the Haytians in imitation of what the enlightened French had taught them. In two daily papers of this city there were published, a year since, a series of articles entitled the “Massacres of Santo Domingo.”
The “massacres” are not attributable to emancipation, for we have proved otherwise in regard to the first of them. The other occurred in 1804, twelve years after the slaves had disenthralled themselves. Fearful as the latter may have been, it did not equal the atrocities previously committed on the Haytians by the French. And the massacre was restricted to the white French inhabitants, whom Dessalines, the Robespierre of the island, suspected of an attempt to bring back slavery, with the aid of a French force yet hovering in the neighborhood.
And if we search for the cause of this massacre, we may trace it to the following source: Nations which are pleased to term themselves civilized have one sort of faith which they hold to one another, and another sort which they entertain towards people less advanced in refinement. The faith which they entertain towards the latter is, very often, treachery, in the vocabulary of the civilized. It was treachery towards Toussaint that caused the massacre of Santo Domingo; it was treachery towards Osceola that brought bloodhounds into Florida!
General Rochambeau, with the remnant of the French army, having been reduced to the dread necessity of striving “to appease the calls of hunger by feeding on horses, mules, and the very dogs that had been employed in hunting down and devouring the Negroes,” evacuated the island in the autumn of 1803, and Hayti thenceforward became an independent State.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have now laid before you a concise view of the revolutions of Hayti in the relation of cause and effect; and I trust you will now think, that, so far from being scenes of indiscriminate massacre from which we should turn our eyes in horror, these revolutions constitute an epoch worthy of the anxious study of every American citizen.
Among the many lessons that may be drawn from this portion of history is one not unconnected with the present occasion. From causes to which I need not give a name, there is gradually creeping into our otherwise prosperous state the incongruous and undermining influence of caste. One of the local manifestations of this unrepublican sentiment is, that while 800 children, chiefly of foreign parents, are educated and taught trades at the expense of all the citizens, colored children are excluded from these privileges.
With the view to obviate the evils of such an unreasonable proscription, a few ladies of this city, by their untiring exertions, have organized an “Asylum for Colored Orphans.” Their zeal in this cause is infinitely beyond all praise of mine, for their deeds of mercy are smiled on by Him who has declared, that “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water, shall in no wise lose her reward.” Were any further argument needed to urge them on in their blessed work, I would point out to them the revolutions of Hayti, where, in the midst of the orgies and incantations of civil war, there appeared, as a spirit of peace, the patriot, the father, the benefactor of mankind — Toussaint L’Ouverture, a freedman, who had been taught to read while in slavery!
Dunbar, Alice Moore, ed. Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence: The Best Speeches Delivered by the Negro from the days of Slavery to the Present Time. New York: Bookery, 1914. Archive.org. 28 Sept. 2006. Web. 23 Jan. 2015. <https:// archive.org/ details/ masterpieces ofne00dunbrich>.