AN APPEAL TO CONGRESS FOR IMPARTIAL SUFFRAGE





A very limited statement of the argument for impartial suffrage,

and for including the negro in the body politic, would require

more space than can be reasonably asked here. It is supported by

reasons as broad as the nature of man, and as numerous as the

wants of society. Man is the only government-making animal in the

world. His right to a participation in the production and

operation of government is an inference from his nature, as direct

and self-evident as is his right to acquire property or education.

It is no less a crime against the manhood of a man, to declare

that he shall not share in the making and directing of the

government under which he lives, than to say that he shall not

acquire property and education. The fundamental and unanswerable

argument in favor of the enfranchisement of the negro is found in

the undisputed fact of his manhood. He is a man, and by every

fact and argument by which any man can sustain his right to vote,

the negro can sustain his right equally. It is plain that, if the

right belongs to any, it belongs to all. The doctrine that some

men have no rights that others are bound to respect, is a doctrine

which we must banish as we have banished slavery, from which it

emanated. If black men have no rights in the eyes of white men,

of course the whites can have none in the eyes of the blacks. The

result is a war of races, and the annihilation of all proper human

relations.



But suffrage for the negro, while easily sustained upon abstract

principles, demands consideration upon what are recognized as the

urgent necessities of the case. It is a measure of relief,--a

shield to break the force of a blow already descending with

violence, and render it harmless. The work of destruction has

already been set in motion all over the South. Peace to the

country has literally meant war to the loyal men of the South,

white and black; and negro suffrage is the measure to arrest and

put an end to that dreadful strife.



Something then, not by way of argument, (for that has been done by

Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, Wendell Phillips, Gerrit Smith,

and other able men,) but rather of statement and appeal.



For better or for worse, (as in some of the old marriage

ceremonies,) the negroes are evidently a permanent part of the

American population. They are too numerous and useful to be

colonized, and too enduring and self-perpetuating to disappear by

natural causes. Here they are, four millions of them, and, for

weal or for woe, here they must remain. Their history is parallel

to that of the country; but while the history of the latter has

been cheerful and bright with blessings, theirs has been heavy and

dark with agonies and curses. What O'Connell said of the history

of Ireland may with greater truth be said of the negro's. It may

be "traced like a wounded man through a crowd, by the blood." Yet

the negroes have marvellously survived all the exterminating

forces of slavery, and have emerged at the end of two hundred and

fifty years of bondage, not morose, misanthropic, and revengeful,

but cheerful, hopeful, and forgiving. They now stand before

Congress and the country, not complaining of the past, but simply

asking for a better future. The spectacle of these dusky millions

thus imploring, not demanding, is touching; and if American

statesmen could be moved by a simple appeal to the nobler elements

of human nature, if they had not fallen, seemingly, into the

incurable habit of weighing and measuring every proposition of

reform by some standard of profit and loss, doing wrong from

choice, and right only from necessity or some urgent demand of

human selfishness, it would be enough to plead for the negroes on

the score of past services and sufferings. But no such appeal

shall be relied on here. Hardships, services, sufferings, and

sacrifices are all waived. It is true that they came to the

relief of the country at the hour of its extremest need. It is

true that, in many of the rebellious States, they were almost the

only reliable friends the nation had throughout the whole

tremendous war. It is true that, notwithstanding their alleged

ignorance, they were wiser than their masters, and knew enough to

be loyal, while those masters only knew enough to be rebels and

traitors. It is true that they fought side by side in the loyal

cause with our gallant and patriotic white soldiers, and that, but

for their help,--divided as the loyal States were,--the Rebels

might have succeeded in breaking up the Union, thereby entailing

border wars and troubles of unknown duration and incalculable

calamity. All this and more is true of these loyal negroes. Many

daring exploits will be told to their credit. Impartial history

will paint them as men who deserved well of their country. It

will tell how they forded and swam rivers, with what consummate

address they evaded the sharp-eyed Rebel pickets, how they toiled

in the darkness of night through the tangled marshes of briers and

thorns, barefooted and weary, running the risk of losing their

lives, to warn our generals of Rebel schemes to surprise and

destroy our loyal army. It will tell how these poor people, whose

rights we still despised, behaved to our wounded soldiers, when

found cold, hungry, and bleeding on the deserted battle-field; how

they assisted our escaping prisoners from Andersonville, Belle

Isle, Castle Thunder, and elsewhere, sharing with them their

wretched crusts, and otherwise affording them aid and comfort; how

they promptly responded to the trumpet call for their services,

fighting against a foe that denied them the rights of civilized

warfare, and for a government which was without the courage to

assert those rights and avenge their violation in their behalf;

with what gallantry they flung themselves upon Rebel

fortifications, meeting death as fearlessly as any other troops in

the service. But upon none of these things is reliance placed.

These facts speak to the better dispositions of the human heart;

but they seem of little weight with the opponents of impartial

suffrage.



It is true that a strong plea for equal suffrage might be

addressed to the national sense of honor. Something, too, might

be said of national gratitude. A nation might well hesitate

before the temptation to betray its allies. There is something

immeasurably mean, to say nothing of the cruelty, in placing the

loyal negroes of the South under the political power of their

Rebel masters. To make peace with our enemies is all well enough;

but to prefer our enemies and sacrifice our friends,--to exalt our

enemies and cast down our friends,--to clothe our enemies, who

sought the destruction of the government, with all political

power, and leave our friends powerless in their hands,--is an act

which need not be characterized here. We asked the negroes to

espouse our cause, to be our friends, to fight for us, and against

their masters; and now, after they have done all that we asked

them to do,--helped us to conquer their masters, and thereby

directed toward themselves the furious hate of the vanquished,--it

is proposed in some quarters to turn them over to the political

control of the common enemy of the government and of the negro.

But of this let nothing be said in this place. Waiving humanity,

national honor, the claims of gratitude, the precious satisfaction

arising from deeds of charity and justice to the weak and

defenceless,--the appeal for impartial suffrage addresses itself

with great pertinency to the darkest, coldest, and flintiest side

of the human heart, and would wring righteousness from the

unfeeling calculations of human selfishness.



For in respect to this grand measure it is the good fortune of the

negro that enlightened selfishness, not less than justice, fights

on his side. National interest and national duty, if elsewhere

separated, are firmly united here. The American people can,

perhaps, afford to brave the censure of surrounding nations for

the manifest injustice and meanness of excluding its faithful

black soldiers from the ballot-box, but it cannot afford to allow

the moral and mental energies of rapidly increasing millions to be

consigned to hopeless degradation.



Strong as we are, we need the energy that slumbers in the black

man's arm to make us stronger. We want no longer any heavy-

footed, melancholy service from the negro. We want the cheerful

activity of the quickened manhood of these sable millions. Nor

can we afford to endure the moral blight which the existence of a

degraded and hated class must necessarily inflict upon any people

among whom such a class may exist. Exclude the negroes as a class

from political rights,--teach them that the high and manly

privilege of suffrage is to be enjoyed by white citizens only,--

that they may bear the burdens of the state, but that they are to

have no part in its direction or its honors,--and you at once

deprive them of one of the main incentives to manly character and

patriotic devotion to the interests of the government; in a word,

you stamp them as a degraded caste,--you teach them to despise

themselves, and all others to despise them. Men are so

constituted that they largely derive their ideas of their

abilities and their possibilities from the settled judgments of

their fellow-men, and especially from such as they read in the

institutions under which they live. If these bless them, they are

blest indeed; but if these blast them, they are blasted indeed.

Give the negro the elective franchise, and you give him at once a

powerful motive for all noble exertion, and make him a man among

men. A character is demanded of him, and here as elsewhere demand

favors supply. It is nothing against this reasoning that all men

who vote are not good men or good citizens. It is enough that the

possession and exercise of the elective franchise is in itself an

appeal to the nobler elements of manhood, and imposes education as

essential to the safety of society.



To appreciate the full force of this argument, it must be

observed, that disfranchisement in a republican government based

upon the idea of human equality and universal suffrage, is a very

different thing from disfranchisement in governments based upon

the idea of the divine right of kings, or the entire subjugation

of the masses. Masses of men can take care of themselves.

Besides, the disabilities imposed upon all are necessarily without

that bitter and stinging element of invidiousness which attaches

to disfranchisement in a republic. What is common to all works no

special sense of degradation to any. But in a country like ours,

where men of all nations, kindred, and tongues are freely

enfranchised, and allowed to vote, to say to the negro, You shall

not vote, is to deal his manhood a staggering blow, and to burn

into his soul a bitter and goading sense of wrong, or else work in

him a stupid indifference to all the elements of a manly

character. As a nation, we cannot afford to have amongst us

either this indifference and stupidity, or that burning sense of

wrong. These sable millions are too powerful to be allowed to

remain either indifferent or discontented. Enfranchise them, and

they become self-respecting and country-loving citizens.

Disfranchise them, and the mark of Cain is set upon them less

mercifully than upon the first murderer, for no man was to hurt

him. But this mark of inferiority--all the more palpable because

of a difference of color--not only dooms the negro to be a

vagabond, but makes him the prey of insult and outrage everywhere.

While nothing may be urged here as to the past services of the

negro, it is quite within the line of this appeal to remind the

nation of the possibility that a time may come when the services

of the negro may be a second time required. History is said to

repeat itself, and, if so, having wanted the negro once, we may

want him again. Can that statesmanship be wise which would leave

the negro good ground to hesitate, when the exigencies of the

country required his prompt assistance? Can that be sound

statesmanship which leaves millions of men in gloomy discontent,

and possibly in a state of alienation in the day of national

trouble? Was not the nation stronger when two hundred thousand

sable soldiers were hurled against the Rebel fortifications, than

it would have been without them? Arming the negro was an urgent

military necessity three years ago,--are we sure that another

quite as pressing may not await us? Casting aside all thought of

justice and magnanimity, is it wise to impose upon the negro all

the burdens involved in sustaining government against foes within

and foes without, to make him equal sharer in all sacrifices for

the public good, to tax him in peace and conscript him in war, and

then coldly exclude him from the ballot-box?



Look across the sea. Is Ireland, in her present condition,

fretful, discontented, compelled to support an establishment in

which she does not believe, and which the vast majority of her

people abhor, a source of power or of weakness to Great Britain?

Is not Austria wise in removing all ground of complaint against

her on the part of Hungary? And does not the Emperor of Russia

act wisely, as well as generously, when he not only breaks up the

bondage of the serf, but extends him all the advantages of Russian

citizenship? Is the present movement in England in favor of

manhood suffrage--for the purpose of bringing four millions of

British subjects into full sympathy and co-operation with the

British government--a wise and humane movement, or otherwise? Is

the existence of a rebellious element in our borders--which New

Orleans, Memphis, and Texas show to be only disarmed, but at heart

as malignant as ever, only waiting for an opportunity to reassert

itself with fire and sword--a reason for leaving four millions of

the nation's truest friends with just cause of complaint against

the Federal government? If the doctrine that taxation should go

hand in hand with representation can be appealed to in behalf of

recent traitors and rebels, may it not properly be asserted in

behalf of a people who have ever been loyal and faithful to the

government? The answers to these questions are too obvious to

require statement. Disguise it as we may, we are still a divided

nation. The Rebel States have still an anti-national policy.

Massachusetts and South Carolina may draw tears from the eyes of

our tender-hearted President by walking arm in arm into his

Philadelphia Convention, but a citizen of Massachusetts is still

an alien in the Palmetto State. There is that, all over the

South, which frightens Yankee industry, capital, and skill from

its borders. We have crushed the Rebellion, but not its hopes or

its malign purposes. The South fought for perfect and permanent

control over the Southern laborer. It was a war of the rich

against the poor. They who waged it had no objection to the

government, while they could use it as a means of confirming their

power over the laborer. They fought the government, not because

they hated the government as such, but because they found it, as

they thought, in the way between them and their one grand purpose

of rendering permanent and indestructible their authority and

power over the Southern laborer. Though the battle is for the

present lost, the hope of gaining this object still exists, and

pervades the whole South with a feverish excitement. We have thus

far only gained a Union without unity, marriage without love,

victory without peace. The hope of gaining by politics what they

lost by the sword, is the secret of all this Southern unrest; and

that hope must be extinguished before national ideas and objects

can take full possession of the Southern mind. There is but one

safe and constitutional way to banish that mischievous hope from

the South, and that is by lifting the laborer beyond the

unfriendly political designs of his former master. Give the negro

the elective franchise, and you at once destroy the purely

sectional policy, and wheel the Southern States into line with

national interests and national objects. The last and shrewdest

turn of Southern politics is a recognition of the necessity of

getting into Congress immediately, and at any price. The South

will comply with any conditions but suffrage for the negro. It

will swallow all the unconstitutional test oaths, repeal all the

ordinances of Secession, repudiate the Rebel debt, promise to pay

the debt incurred in conquering its people, pass all the

constitutional amendments, if only it can have the negro left

under its political control. The proposition is as modest as that

made on the mountain: "All these things will I give unto thee if

thou wilt fall down and worship me."



But why are the Southerners so willing to make these sacrifices?

The answer plainly is, they see in this policy the only hope of

saving something of their old sectional peculiarities and power.

Once firmly seated in Congress, their alliance with Northern

Democrats re-established, their States restored to their former

position inside the Union, they can easily find means of keeping

the Federal government entirely too busy with other important

matters to pay much attention to the local affairs of the Southern

States. Under the potent shield of State Rights, the game would

be in their own hands. Does any sane man doubt for a moment that

the men who followed Jefferson Davis through the late terrible

Rebellion, often marching barefooted and hungry, naked and

penniless, and who now only profess an enforced loyalty, would

plunge this country into a foreign war to-day, if they could

thereby gain their coveted independence, and their still more

coveted mastery over the negroes? Plainly enough, the peace not

less than the prosperity of this country is involved in the great

measure of impartial suffrage. King Cotton is deposed, but only

deposed, and is ready to-day to reassert all his ancient

pretensions upon the first favorable opportunity. Foreign

countries abound with his agents. They are able, vigilant,

devoted. The young men of the South burn with the desire to

regain what they call the lost cause; the women are noisily

malignant towards the Federal government. In fact, all the

elements of treason and rebellion are there under the thinnest

disguise which necessity can impose.



What, then, is the work before Congress? It is to save the people

of the South from themselves, and the nation from detriment on

their account. Congress must supplant the evident sectional

tendencies of the South by national dispositions and tendencies.

It must cause national ideas and objects to take the lead and

control the politics of those States. It must cease to recognize

the old slave-masters as the only competent persons to rule the

South. In a word, it must enfranchise the negro, and by means of

the loyal negroes and the loyal white men of the South build up a

national party there, and in time bridge the chasm between North

and South, so that our country may have a common liberty and a

common civilization. The new wine must be put into new bottles.

The lamb may not be trusted with the wolf. Loyalty is hardly safe

with traitors.



Statesmen of America! beware what you do. The ploughshare of

rebellion has gone through the land beam-deep. The soil is in

readiness, and the seed-time has come. Nations, not less than

individuals, reap as they sow. The dreadful calamities of the

past few years came not by accident, nor unbidden, from the

ground. You shudder to-day at the harvest of blood sown in the

spring-time of the Republic by your patriot fathers. The

principle of slavery, which they tolerated under the erroneous

impression that it would soon die out, became at last the dominant

principle and power at the South. It early mastered the

Constitution, became superior to the Union, and enthroned itself

above the law.



Freedom of speech and of the press it slowly but successfully

banished from the South, dictated its own code of honor and

manners to the nation, brandished the bludgeon and the bowie-knife

over Congressional debate, sapped the foundations of loyalty,

dried up the springs of patriotism, blotted out the testimonies of

the fathers against oppression, padlocked the pulpit, expelled

liberty from its literature, invented nonsensical theories about

master-races and slave-races of men, and in due season produced a

Rebellion fierce, foul, and bloody.



This evil principle again seeks admission into our body politic.

It comes now in shape of a denial of political rights to four

million loyal colored people. The South does not now ask for

slavery. It only asks for a large degraded caste, which shall

have no political rights. This ends the case. Statesmen, beware

what you do. The destiny of unborn and unnumbered generations is

in your hands. Will you repeat the mistake of your fathers, who

sinned ignorantly? or will you profit by the blood-bought wisdom

all round you, and forever expel every vestige of the old

abomination from our national borders? As you members of the

Thirty-ninth Congress decide, will the country be peaceful,

united, and happy, or troubled, divided, and miserable.





A NEGRO SCHOOLMASTER IN THE NEW SOUTH BAXTER'S PROCRUSTES facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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