In this matter there are but two courses open to us—one of folly, the other of wisdom. We may leave the black people to work out their own salvation as best they may, to lie as a mass at the bottom of our society, except so far as the abler men who may arise among them help their struggling fellows. The result of this will be the perpetuation of all the existing evils. Or we may set to work, after the true manner of our folk, with the full knowledge that the task is very great, but that we have the strength to see it done. With this spirit we may accomplish the noblest work that men have ever undertaken in any nation.
To the people of the South we may fairly say: "These negroes were brought here by your forefathers, and thus tied to the land. In their training as slaves, they were given an opportunity to rise far above their primitive savagery. You have seen in serious trials how, as a race, they are trustworthy. They are now your fellow-citizens in name, but are in a condition to be a permanent menace to your commonwealth. Properly aided on their way upward, they may be of great value to your descendants." To the people of the North we may plead for all the help they can give; for hardly less than the Southerners, their ancestors shared in the actions which brought the negroes to this country. They gave the blacks the semblance of citizenship by the process of emancipation. If the work stops there, it may be questioned whether it was a boon to the masses of the folk it made nominally free. To be what it was meant to be, then, it needs more than enactments. There must be long continued and devoted labor, wisely directed.
A necessary part of the work of a true emancipation of the negro is a careful inquiry into the history and former status of the people. Such an inquiry, placed and kept in good hands, is a necessary preliminary to sagacious action. It may serve to unite the men of all parts of the country in a work that so nearly concerns us all. There is not, nor is there likely to arise, a situation that so calls for intelligent patriotism as this we are sorely neglecting. We may go far away and rear an empire with our armies; but if we leave these, our neighbors, without a fair chance to develop the good that is in them, we shall have lost our real opportunity for great deeds—mayhap we shall fix among us evils that in the end will drag us down.