Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/312

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
296
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

pean, a place in the "organization of labor" will have to be found for him midway between the white workman and the slave. It is, indeed, being found. As a farmer the negro has totally failed. "But he is a good laborer under supervision. He is a success in the mines. He has found acceptance in the iron furnaces and about the coke ovens. He is in great demand in periods of railroad construction," and he is a Western pioneer. Above born and bred slaves for life there is the status of imported slaves for a term. For years Kanakas, hired or captured from the Melanesian Islands of the Pacific, were used as slaves by the sugar planters of Queensland, until the outcry in England put a stop to an ill-conducted traffic. It has since been resumed under humaner conditions, which make it as defensible as slavery can ever be. Coolies from India are imported into Fiji and Hongkong practically as free laborers. They are also employed on board the great liners that ply between India, China, Australia, and England, much to the discontent of the working class and to the great satisfaction of the well-to-do, who thus gain cheaper passages and lower freights. The radical opposition is no more likely to prevent this form of native labor from spreading to all suitable environments than the conservative opposition has prevented women from filling the employments within their improved capacities. The ubiquitous Chinaman, again, has imported himself into most colonies, and so long as he takes a place that the white laborer refuses to occupy, he will present the ugly problem of the coexistence of an indestructible alien race with a civilized people whose type of civilization and his are irreconcilable. European colonies have also known white slavery, as Greek and Roman colonies knew it, and slavery of their own race and nation, as European countries knew it. Its most degraded type has doubtless been Spanish, English, and French convictism. The Australian-English is the most familiar and the worst. The Australian convict was a slave for life or a long term. Like the slave, he was at the mercy of his master, excepting that corporal punishment could not be inflicted by the master's hands. The lash was none the less kept going; in a single year, in New South Wales, nearly three thousand floggings were administered. The Roman ergastula were pleasure bowers compared with the convict hells of Parramatta, in New South Wales, and Port Arthur, in Tasmania. Marcus Clarke's terrible fiction proves to be still more terrible fact. Convicts were herded together like pigs; kindness was rare, oppression general, and many fine men died inch by inch. Such was the state of things even after the introduction of the assignment system. According to that system, convicts were assigned as agricultural laborers and shepherds to settlers who cried out for them, as the American planters did for slaves. Craftsmen were allotted to high officials in lieu of salary or