Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/157

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By Professor N. S. SHALER,


WHATEVER danger there may be of serious conflict between the negroes and whites in the Southern States—at most but slight—is likely to arise from the fact that the old class of slaveholders, men accustomed to hold a relation to the lower race, is passing away. Already the greater number of the white people know the blacks only as they are known by the Northern folk. Race prejudice, which in the days of slavery was hardly more than formal, finding expression mainly in certain rules as to the behavior of the inferior class, is likely to increase in proportion as the two peoples become parted from one another in interests. If the present movement to disfranchise the negroes should lead to their general and permanent separation from political life, or if in elections they should again array themselves as they did immediately after the war—under the lead of white adventurers against the property interests of the commonwealth—then there may be disaster. The aim of the statesman—of every citizen in his quality of a statesman—should be to make the present political separation of the races, as far as possible, temporary. Their effort should be to develop in the blacks the qualities which may make them safe holders of the franchise, and to give that trust to all who become worthy of it. We may at once put aside all the futile expedients for other dispositions of the negroes than the simple plan of adopting them into our national life. The ancient project of returning them to Africa, the suggestions that they should be deported to some part of the American tropics, or be segregated in some one of the Southern States, are all too impracticable to deserve a moment's attention. They must be dismissed, if for no other reason, because the labor of the negroes is needed where they now dwell. Their exodus would mean the commercial ruin of half a dozen great States. It is hardly necessary to suggest that any such action would involve a trespass upon the rights of both the whites and blacks too great to be thought of in our day.

Assuming that the only thing to do with the negroes is to shape them so that they may be fit for the place of citizens, the question is as to the steps which may be taken to attain this end. It is evident that it cannot quickly be done. Acting on the basis of our experience with immigrants from Europe, a majority of Congress concluded that all the negro needed to convert him from the slave to the truly free man