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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/559

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IT is difficult for men who study history to read the discussion now raging on the progress of Islam in Africa without recurring to the old question—which so greatly interested the last generation, and is now so seldom started—the question of what the negro is really like. There are not many left among us, we imagine, though there are some here and there, who doubt whether he is a man at all; but the conflict of opinion about him is of the most extreme kind, so extreme as to be almost unintelligible. One set of observers, with whom Captain Burton, as we understand his writings, agrees in the main, hold that he is a nearly irreclaimable savage, a being who can not be ruled except by terror, and who is by nature incapable of rising to the level attained by the white, and even in many respects by the yellow and the brownish man. They think his savagery instinctive, his laziness incurable, and his sensuality far in excess of anything observable in Europe. They declare Africa an accursed continent chiefly because of the negro, and welcome frightful narratives, like Mr. St. John's account of Hayti, as demonstrating past all question the accuracy of their theory. Other observers, again, including many missionaries and some explorers, are friendly to the negro, think that the repulsion caused by his external aspect makes ordinary men unjust to him, and declare that he is, when not oppressed, essentially a docile creature indisposed to vindictiveness, and, though not clever, fairly ready to receive instruction, which, they further add, may occasionally be carried up to any point attainable by the white man. Such observers, among whom we should class keen-eyed Mrs. Trollope, who had rare opportunities of studying the race, and keener-eyed Mrs. Stowe, think the Uncle Tom kind of negro not rare, and evidently hold that when bad, he is vicious as a European may be, rather than innately savage. A third class maintain that the negro, if carefully observed, is found to be exactly like everybody else, with the same passions, the same aspirations, and the same powers, with one most remarkable exception. He can not rise in the scale beyond a certain point. The originating power of the European and the imitating power of the modern Asiatic are not in him, or not in the same degree; and he remains under all circumstances more or less of a child, bad or good like other children, but never quite a man. It is added by this class, and in part by the one mentioned before it, that the negro woman is, on the whole, better than the negro man, with more industry, more fidelity, and decidedly more capacity for the gentler virtues. The third opinion is, so far as we know, that of the majority of missionaries, of most residents in the West Indies not being em-