them are many and rapid. The intelligent citizens are very fast awaking to a consciousness of the folly of rebellion; and, what is better still, they are beginning to see what a horrible delusion they have been under all this while, and what a brutal institution they have been cherishing. Within a very few years we believe that there will be hardly any thinking man in South Carolina, who will not be amazed and humiliated to recollect the fatuity with which his State gloried in that which was her chief shame. As for the purely selfish, coarse, unintellectual class of planters, many of whom can neither read nor write, and whose god is money, they will never learn. The generation must die out, and give place to a better.

There is neither sense nor justice, when we are speaking of the people of a State, in utterly ignoring the majority of its inhabitants, on the ground of a distinction which has nothing to do with political capacity, but is the outgrowth of the evil institution which has just been destroyed. This seems self-evident. We are no believers in an inalienable right of all men to the suffrage. Nobody has a right to it, who does not know how to use it, and will not use it honestly; and we are as fixedly opposed to extending the elective franchise at once to the mass of the negroes, as we are to bestowing the same high privilege upon raw foreigners, or the brutish hordes in the dens of our great cities. Our NewEngland theory lays it down as the duty of the State to establish such educational institutions as will qualify every citizen to be a voter, and, as soon as he is qualified, to make him one. But we should very much dread, in re-establishing civil institutions in the Southern States, to see the ignorant blacks, who would form a majority in some of them, endowed thus with controlling power. To refuse to extend the suffrage to them on the ground that they are black is an outrage upon humanity and common sense; to refuse it to such of them as are ignorant—and to such whites, as well-is the simple dictate of statesmanship and common prudence. There are hundreds of colored men in every considerable town of the South, and even scattered through the plantations, who are

as well acquainted with political questions as the majority of the whites; and these ought by all means to be allowed to vote. But most of the field hands have no political ideas at all. If you put a ballot into their hands, it will not be they that vote, it will be some demagogue, who votes through


We must own to no little amazement at the turn the discussion upon this question has taken of late in the North. We had supposed that there was no lesson this nation had learned more surely, and at higher cost, than that the rule of ignorant masses is ruinous. We had supposed, that, if there was one thing upon which New England had made up its mind, it was upon education as the only safeguard of democracy. We had supposed it was proved, that the South had ruled the nation by means of the ignorant districts of the North, and only by these; and that it was the uprising of the intelligent democracy of the North which overthrew this oligarchy. We had supposed, that, when Massachu setts excluded from the suffrage all who could not read and write, she did it on principle, and with a definite purpose.

But it seems we were mistaken; and it is deemed safer to put political power into the hands of the ignorant negro of Carolina and Georgia, than the ignorant Irishman of Massachusetts. We are told that immediate, unlimited, universal suffrage is the only safe and consistent principle. Nay, so eager are some of the advocates of this measure, that we have even met with grave arguments to show, that, on the whole, the uninstructed, unsophisticated masses make better citizens than those more enlightened. Really, the eulogies of ignorance which we meet with in some of the newspapers are among the marvels of literature.*

We do not regard this as any thing more than a passing furor. Perhaps by the time these pages are in print, the

* A correspondent of the "Commonwealth" writes, that "a man can be unlearned and moral at the same time, but he cannot be ignorant and moral." This observation contains a profound truth. Now, the plantation negroes are, as a rule, very ignorant and very immoral.

popular mind will have returned to reason. Still, we think it well to point out a few of the fallacies that beset the subject.

It is not true in any broad sense, that the ballot educates. Municipal self-government, such as exists in our New-England towns, is the most perfect form of democracy, and the most efficient of educating institutions. Democracy of this kind elevates and instructs. But to put a ballot into a man's hand, and tell him to drop it into a box,- this calls for neither knowledge nor character on his part. The intelligent exercise of the elective franchise supposes a man to be already educated. Voting- unless it is a mere farce, performed at the dictate of some leader, as it is in all ignorant communities

is the result of thought and discussion. In our townmeetings we have this discussion: the people take part in it, speak or listen, are instructed, and make up their minds upon the question at issue; the vote at the end merely records the result to which they come. Where, on the other hand, there is no such open debate, but all that the citizen is called upon to do is to vote, there is no education except in the previous preparation, in newspapers, speeches, and the other accompaniments of a popular canvass. And, until a community is already educated, the ballot is worse than useless, it is like an edged tool in a child's hand. The colored people need to be educated before receiving the election franchise: first, by schools; then, by genuine municipal institutions, the most essential, but the most difficult to provide. At some points in the negro colonies, -as Mitchelville, Skiddaway, and Island No. 63, these have already been established, with gratifying results; and we look upon the extension of them as the most important thing that can be done for the advancement, not only of the colored race, but of democratic principles and habits throughout the South.

Neither is it true that the ballot is a sure safeguard against oppression, nor even that it will certainly act in that direction. The ballot is a powerful weapon in the hands of one who knows how to use it; but an unskilful person is as likely to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

turn it to his own harm as his own good. It gave America the beneficient rule of Abraham Lincoln; it placed France under the despotism of Louis Napoleon.* That pro-slavery journal was not altogether unreasonable, which advocated the suffrage for the blacks, on the ground that it would be the surest means of keeping political power in the hands of their old masters. As a rule, we feel no apprehension of this result; but there is no manner of doubt, that, in many cases, it would work in this way. Cowardice always goes with ignorance; and, even granting that the negroes were always able to tell who are their true friends, they are so easily persuaded and intimidated that there would be great danger of their votes being controlled by those nearest to them and most constantly in contact with them. Moreover, in perhaps the majority of instances, there has existed a real mutual attachment between the slaves and their masters. One rarely hears the freedmen complain of their former treatment; and, on the other hand, their life since they were freed has been such a hard one, — so full of disappointment, privation, and abuse, that it would not be strange if many of them sighed for the flesh-pots of Egypt. It is certain that golden visions were held before their eyes, which have never been realized; and that some of them have experienced from the "Yankees" insults and outrages wholly new to them. It is only pro-slavery Northerners and "poor whites" who hate the negroes. Now, as fast as they become enlightened, and learn to judge of cause and effect in political matters, the freedmen will be

"The artisan class from 1840 to 1846 gave their effort to sustain the Corn Laws; the peasants also, if they had the vote, would probably use it against themselves. To give voting-power to ignorant masses, accustomed to abject obedience, is surely no polical panacea.”- -"English Institutions," by F. W. NEWMAN, p. 12. It would almost seem as if Mr. Newman wrote these striking words with reference to the great question now under debate in this country.

†The writer has talked with a freedman in Charleston, who inherited from his master a house, and piece of land, with a considerable sum of money. He happened to be visiting upon a plantation near Columbia, when General Sherman's army passed through, and says that the "Yankee soldiers" hung him three times to make him confess where the owner of the plantation had hidden his silver, which he did not know.

[ocr errors]

able to combine effectually for their own protection; until then, they are quite as likely to combine for their own destruction, under the lead of their worst enemies. Do any of us doubt that the combinations of the Irish voters in defence of slavery have really stood in the way of their own best interests?

It is not true that the negro, if he receives the ballot, will always vote right. Those who make this assertion forget that there can ever be any question at issue but the present one. Of course, if they were to vote to-day, they would vote for Union and emancipation. But both these questions are already decided, - they are never to come before them; and it is a serious matter of doubt whether the negroes would, as a general thing, vote right on all the questions that are to come up within a twelvemonth. It is certain that ignorant men, when they act in masses, do it under the lead of some one who knows more than they themselves do; and it is equally certain, that, as a general thing, they follow the lead of demagogues rather than of statesmen. It is not perhaps so well known, but it is no less true, that such demagogues are already at work in the South, and that the minds of the freedmen are already sadly bewildered as to the great social questions that concern them. Probably half of the negroes of South Carolina believe that the land rightfully belongs to them; some of them believe, that, having worked all their lives for nothing, they are entitled to be supported in future; many believe, that they are the only loyalists in the South, and that they are to be its rulers, to the exclusion of the whites; and nearly all, in making contracts for labor, would be disposed to demand higher wages than any planter can reasonably afford to pay. These notions have been put into their heads by sentimentalists and demagogues, and they are plausibly defended by reason of the element of truth that there is in most of them: can it be doubted, if the negroes had the right to vote, that they would elect to office men who thus flatter and mislead them, in preference to those who give them sober counsel?

It is not true, that, if we let this occasion slip, their chances

« VorigeDoorgaan »