From Fourth International, Vol.7 No.9, September 1946, pp.277-281.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido & marked up by Andrew Pollack for ETOL.
In this new feature of the magazine, we plan to acquaint our readers with the writings of the great rebels of the past; the men and women who played outstanding roles in the revolutionary struggles of mankind.
We are reprinting here several speeches of Frederick Douglass, the renowned Negro anti-slavery leader.
The career of Douglass was, in every way, a remarkable one. He was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, approximately in 1817. He never knew his father and saw little of his mother, since she worked as a slave on a plantation twelve miles away. When 10 years old, Douglass was sent by his master, Captain Aaron Anthony, to work for a relative of the latter, in Baltimore. Here Douglass worked, first as a household servant, later as an unskilled slave laborer, in his new master’s shipyard. By the most painstaking effort and through the most ingenious devices, Douglass managed to learn how to read and write.
Upon the death of his master, the 16-year old boy became the slave of Thomas Auld, a cruel and tight-fisted man. Determined to crush young Douglass’ spirit, Auld turned him over to Edward Corey, a professional “Negro-breaker.” From January to August 1834, Douglass was overworked, flogged daily and almost starved to death.
On September 2, 1838, at the age of 21, Douglass, after much preparation, managed to escape from slavery. He arrived in New York City, and then with the help of local Negroes went on to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Unable to work at his trade as a ship’s caulker, because of the opposition of white working-men, Douglass was forced to saw wood, shovel coal, dig cellars, cart rubbish, load and unload ships. Douglass did not have much opportunity to continue his education.
Shortly after his arrival in New Bedford, Douglass took out a subscription to the Liberator, the great anti-slavery paper edited by William Lloyd Garrison. He began attending meetings of the Abolitionist movement. In 1841, at an anti-slavery Convention held in Nantucket, Douglass electrified the audience with his speech, narrating his experiences as a slave.
After the Convention, John A. Collins, general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, urged Douglass to become a full-time lecturer for the organization. Douglass accepted and soon became one of the prominent orators and leaders of the Abolitionist Movement. It was no easy matter to be an active Abolitionist in those days; and it was especially dangerous for a Negro. In many cities, hoodlums were hired to attack anti-slavery speakers and disrupt their meetings. On a number of occasions, Douglass narrowly escaped death.
In 1843, the New England Anti-Slavery Society selected him as one of the speakers to appear at “one hundred anti-slavery conventions” from New England to Indiana. In 1844, a similar number of conventions were sponsored within Massachusetts and again Douglass went on tour, stirring audiences with his magnificent oratory.
During the winter months of 1844-45, Douglass worked on his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The book, prefaced by letters from Garrison and Wendell Phillips, made its appearance in May 1845, priced at fifty cents, and ran through a large edition.
In order to escape possible recapture, Douglass decided to go abroad. With a purse of $250 raised by anti-slavery friends in Boston, Douglass sailed for England and for two years he lectured in England, Scotland and Ireland.
In December 1846, Douglass legally became a free person, when several English friends raised $750, purchased his emancipation and placed the bill of sale in his hands. When Douglass left the United States in 1845 he was known only to local audiences in this country. He returned two years later, an international figure, a man who had become to the world a symbol of the Negro masses and their plight.
In December 1847, Douglass launched his own anti-slavery journal, The North Star in Rochester, New York, which soon became one of the outstanding anti-slavery papers, changing its name to Frederick Douglass’ Paper in 1855 and to Douglass’ Monthly in 1859.
In the period 1841-47, Douglass accepted all the political tenets of the Garrison-Phillips Abolitionists: Northern secession under the slogan of “no union with the slave-holders”; Against political action; Advocacy of the doctrine of moral suasion. It was the great John Brown who first cast doubts in Douglass’ mind as to the efficacy of moral suasion. Douglass had his first talk with Brown in 1847. Brown not only condemned the institution of slavery, but added that the slaveholders “had forfeited their right to live, that the slaves had the right to gain their liberty in any way they could.” Douglass later wrote: “My utterances became tinged by the color of this man’s strong impressions.” Two years later after his visit with Brown, Douglass stated in a speech at Faneuil Hall in Boston: “I should welcome the intelligence tomorrow, should it come, that the slaves have risen in the South, and that the sable arms which had been engaged in beautifying and adorning the South, were engaged in spreading death and devastation.”
In 1856, Douglass wrote in his paper that while it was still necessary to use “persuasion and argument” and every means that promised “peacefully” to destroy slavery:
“We feel yet that its peaceful annihilation is almost hopeless ... and contend that the slave’s right to revolt is perfect, and only wants the occurrence of favorable circumstances to become a duty ... Shall the millions forever submit to robbery, to murder, to ignorance, and every unnamed evil which an irresponsible tyranny can devise, because the overthrow of that tyranny would be productive of horrors? We say not. The recoil, when it comes, will be in exact proportion to the wrongs inflicted; terrible as it will be, we accept and hope for it ...”
After Lincoln’s election to the Presidency, and the start of the Civil War, Douglass threw himself into the struggle with every fiber of his being: He actively campaigned against Lincoln’s ultra-cautious, dilatory, narrowly legalistic policy; he fought for a revolutionary conduct of the war; he was active in the struggle for the emancipation of the Negro slaves, and for the inclusion of Negro soldiers in the Union forces.
After the Civil War, Douglass was again in the forefront of the fight, this time for Negro suffrage, and succeeded in having the proposal adopted by the Republican convention of 1866. It was this that turned the tide and was partly responsible for the later adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Douglass also understood that it was necessary to assure economic security to the Negroes of the South. He attempted to solve this problem through reformist means, by proposing the establishment of a National Land and Labor Company, capitalized at one million dollars, which would sell land on easy terms to the Negroes of the South. But the industrial and financial leaders who dominated the Republican Party, were already in an orgy of land speculation and profiteering and opposed all such proposals. Even the Radical Republican Plan of Reconstruction pushed through by Congress at this time carried no provisions to enable the freed Negroes to secure land. The foremost bourgeois revolutionist of the Civil War era, the leader of the Radical Republicans, Thaddeus Stevens, introduced a revolutionary bill into the House of Representatives in March 1867, which contained provisions to confiscate the great landed estates of the South and divide them among the tillers of the soil, with each freed man to receive forty acres and $50 for a homestead. But it failed of passage. And because the Stevens plan was defeated, the plantation system lived on after the Civil War and the black man was condemned to the semi-slavery of share-cropping and peonage.
In an address delivered twenty years later Douglass declared:
“They gave the freed man the machinery of liberty but denied him the steam with which to put it into motion. They gave him the uniform of soldiers, but no arms; they called them citizens and left them subjects ... They did not deprive the old master class of the power of life and death which was the soul of the relation of master and slave. They could not of course sell them, but they retained the power to starve them to death, and whenever this power is held, there is the power of slavery.”
Frederick Douglass was one of the great orators of the Nineteenth Century. But more than that, he stands forth as one of the greatest, probably the greatest, leader of the Negro people in their still unfinished struggle for equality and freedom.
The first excerpt printed here, How to Win the War, is from his well-known autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass The speech, Should the Negro Enlist in the Union Army?, was delivered at National Hall, Philadelphia, on July 6, 1863. The last, Why Reconstruction Failed, is an excerpt from his lecture on West Indian Emancipation, delivered on August 1, 1880 in Elmira, New York. – ed.
From the first, I, for one, saw in this war the end of slavery; and truth requires me to say that my interest in the success of the North was largely due to this belief. True it is that this faith was many times shaken by passing events, but never destroyed.
When Secretary Seward instructed our ministers to say to the governments to which they were accredited that, “terminate however it might, the status of no class of the people of the United States would be changed by the rebellion – that the slaves would be slaves still, and that the masters would be masters still” – when General McClellan and General Butler warned the slaves in advance that “if any attempt was made by them to gain their freedom it would be suppressed with an iron hand’’ – when the government persistently refused to employ Negro troops – when the Emancipation Proclamation of General John C. Fremont, in Missouri, was withdrawn – when slaves were being returned from our lines to their masters – when Union soldiers were stationed about the farmhouses of Virginia to guard and protect the master in holding his slaves – when Union soldiers made themselves more active in kicking Negro men out of their camps than in shooting rebels – when even Mr. Lincoln could tell the poor Negro that “he was the cause of the war,” I still believed, and spoke as I believed, all over the North, that the mission of the war was the liberation of the slave, as well as the salvation of the Union.
Hence from the first I reproached the North that they fought the rebels with only one hand, when they might strike effectually with two – that they fought with their soft white hand, while they kept their black iron hand chained and helpless behind them – that they fought the effect, while they protected the cause, and that the Union cause would never prosper till the war assumed an Anti-Slavery attitude, and the Negro was enlisted on the loyal side.
In every way possible in the columns of my paper and on the platform, by letters to friends, at home and abroad, I did all that I could to impress this conviction upon this country. But nations seldom listen to advice from individuals, however reasonable. They are taught less by theories than by facts and events.
There was much that could be said against making the war an Abolition war – much that seemed wise and patriotic. “Make the war an Abolition war,” we were told, “and you drive the border States into the rebellion, and thus add power to the enemy and increase the number you will have to meet on the battlefield. You will exasperate and intensify Southern feeling, making it more desperate, and put far away the day of peace between the two sections.” “Employ the arm of the Negro, and the loyal men of the North will throw down their arms and go home.” “This is the white man’s country and the white man’s war.” “It would inflict an intolerable wound upon the pride and spirit of white soldiers of the Union to see the Negro in the United States uniform. Besides, if you make the Negro a soldier, you cannot depend on his courage; a crack of his old master’s whip will send him scampering in terror from the field.”
And so it was that custom, pride, prejudice, and the old-time respect for Southern feeling, held back the government from an Anti-Slavery policy and from arming the Negro.
Meanwhile the rebellion availed itself of the Negro most effectively. He was not only the stomach of the rebellion, by supplying its commissary department, but he built its forts, dug its entrenchments and performed other duties of the camp which left the rebel soldier more free to fight the loyal army than he could otherwise have been. It was the cotton and corn of the Negro that made the rebellion sack stand on end and caused a continuance of the war. “Destroy these,” was the burden of all my utterances during this part of the struggle, “and you cripple and destroy the rebellion.”
Mr. President and Fellow Citizens:
I shall not attempt to follow Judge Kelly and Miss Dickinson in their eloquent and thrilling appeals to colored men to enlist in the service of the United States. They have left nothing to be desired on that point. I propose to look at the subject in a plain and common-sense light. There are obviously two views to be taken of such enlistments – a broad view and a narrow view. The narrow view of the subject is that which respects the matter of dollars and cents. There are among us those who say they are in favor of taking a hand in this tremendous war, but they add they wish to do so on terms of equality with white men. They say if they enter the service, endure all the hardships, perils and suffering – if they make bare their breasts, and with strong arms and courageous hearts confront rebel cannons, and wring victory from the jaws of death they should have the same pay, the same rations, the same bounty and the same favorable conditions in every way afforded to other men.
I shall not oppose this view. There is something deep down in the soul of every man which assents to the justice of the claim made, and honors the manhood and self-respect which insists upon it (applause). I say at once, in peace and in war, I am content with nothing for the black man short of equal and exact justice. The only question I have, and the point at which I differ from those who refuse to enlist, is whether the colored man is more likely to attain justice and equality while refusing to assist in putting down this tremendous rebellion than he would be if he should promptly, generously and earnestly give his hand and heart to the salvation of the country in this its day of calamity and peril. Nothing could be more plain, nothing more certain than that the speediest and best possible way open to us to manhood, equal rights and elevation, is that we enter this service. For my own part I hold that if the Government of the United States offered nothing more as an inducement to colored men to enlist, than bare subsistence and arms, considering the moral effect of compliance ourselves, it would be the wisest and best thing for us to enlist (applause). There is something ennobling in the possession of arms, and we of all other people in the world stand in need of their ennobling influence.
The case presented in the present war, and the light in which every colored man is bound to view it, may be stated thus. There are two governments struggling now for possession of and endeavoring to bear rule over the United States – one has its capitol in Richmond, and is represented by Mr. Jefferson Davis, and the other has its capitol at Washington and is represented by “Honest Old Abe” (cheers and continuous applause). These two governments are today face to face, confronting each other with vast armies and grappling each other upon many a bloody field, north and south, on the banks of the Mississippi, and under the shadows of the Alleghenies. Now the question for every colored man is, or ought to be, what attitude is assumed by these respective governments and armies towards the rights and liberties of the colored race in this country; which is for us and which is against us! (Cries of “That’s the question”).
Now, I think there can be no doubt as to what is the attitude of the Richmond or Confederate Government. Wherever else there has been concealment, here all is frank, open, and diabolically straightforward. Jefferson Davis and his government make no secret as to the cause of this war, and they do not conceal the purpose of this war. That purpose is nothing more nor less than to make the slavery of the African race universal and perpetual on this continent. It is not only evident from the history and logic of events, but the declared purpose of the atrocious war now being waged against the country. Some, indeed, have denied that slavery has anything to do with the war, but the very same men who do this, affirm it in the same breath in which they deny it; for they tell you that the Abolitionists are the cause of the war. Now, if the Abolitionists are the cause of the war, they are the cause of it only because they sought the abolition of slavery. View it in any way you please, therefore, the rebels are fighting for the existence of slavery; they are fighting for the privilege, the horrid privilege of sundering the dearest ties of human nature; of trafficking in slaves and the souls of men; for the ghastly privilege of scourging women and selling innocent children (cries of “That’s true”).
I say this is not the concealed object of the war, but the openly professed and shamelessly proclaimed object of the war. Vice-President Stephens has stated, with the utmost clearness and precision, the difference between the fundamental ideas of the Confederate Government and those of the Federal Government. One is based on the idea that colored men are an inferior race who may be enslaved and plundered forever and to the hearts content of any men of different complexion, while the Federal government recognizes the natural and fundamental equality of all men (applause). I say again we all know that this Jefferson Davis government holds out to us nothing but fetters, chains, auction blocks, bludgeons, branding irons and eternal slavery and degradation. If it triumphs in this contest, woe, woe, ten thousand woes, to the black man! Such of us who are free, in all the likelihoods of the case, would be given over to the most excruciating tortures, while the last hope of the long crushed bondman would be extinguished forever (Sensation).
Now what is the attitude of the Washington Government toward the colored race? What reason do we have to desire its triumph in the present contest? Mind, I do not ask what was its attitude towards us before this bloody rebellion broke out. I do not ask what was the disposition when it was controlled by the very men who are now fighting to destroy it, when they could no longer control it. I do not even ask what it was two years ago when McClellan shamelessly gave out that in a war between loyal slaves and disloyal masters, he would take the side of the masters against the slaves; when he openly proclaimed his purpose to put down slave insurrections with an iron hand; when glorious Ben Butler (Cheers and applause), now stunned into a conversion to anti-slavery principles (which I have every reason to believe sincere), proffered his services to the Governor of Maryland to suppress a slave insurrection, while treason ran riot in that State, and the warm, red blood of Massachusetts soldiers still stained the pavements of Baltimore.
I do not ask what was the attitude of this Government when many of the officers and men who had undertaken to defend it, openly threatened to throw down their arms and leave the service, if men of color should step forward to defend it, and be invested with the dignity of soldiers. Moreover, I do not ask what was the position of this government when our loyal camps were made slave-hunting grounds, and United States officers performed the disgusting duty of slave dogs to hunt down slaves for rebel masters. These were all dark and terrible days for the Republic. I do not ask you about the dead past. I bring you to the living present. Events more mighty than men, eternal Providence, all-wise and all-controlling, have placed us in new relations to the government and the government to us, what that government is to us today, and what it till be tomorrow, is made evident by a very few facts. Look at them, colored men. Slavery in the district of Columbia is abolished forever; slavery in all the territories of the United States is abolished forever; the foreign slave trade, with its ten thousand revolting abominations, is rendered impossible; slavery in ten States of the Union is abolished forever; slavery in the five remaining States is as certain to follow the same fate as the night is to follow the day. The independence of Haiti is recognized; her Minister sits beside our Prime Minister, Mr. Seward, and dines at his table in Washington, while colored men are excluded from the cars in Philadelphia; showing that a black man’s complexion in Washington, in the presence of the Federal Government, is less offensive than in the city of brotherly love. Citizenship is no longer denied us under this government.
Under the interpretation of our rights by Attorney General Bates, we are American citizens. We can import goods, own and sail ships, and travel in foreign countries with American passports in our pockets; and now, so far from there being any opposition, so far from excluding us from the army as soldiers, the President at Washington, the Cabinet and the Congress, the General commanding and the whole army of the nation unite in giving us one thunderous welcome to share with them in the honor and glory of suppressing treason and upholding the Star Spangled banner. The revolution is tremendous, and it becomes us as wise men to recognize the change and to shape our action accordingly (Cheers and cries of “We will”).
I hold that the Federal Government was never, in its essence, anything but an anti-slavery government. Abolish slavery tomorrow, and not a sentence or syllable of the Constitution need be altered. It was purposely so framed as to give no claim, no sanction to the claim of property in man. If in its origin slavery had any relation to the government, it was only as the scaffolding to the magnificent structure, to be removed as soon as the building was completed. There is in the Constitution no East, no West, no North, no South, no black, no white, no slave, no slaveholder, but all are citizens who are of American birth.
Such is the government, fellow citizens, you are now called upon to uphold with your arms. Such is the government you are now called upon to co-operate with in burying rebellion and slavery in a common grave (applause). Never since the world began was a better chance offered to a long enslaved and oppressed people. The opportunity is given us to be men. With one courageous resolution we may blot out the hand-writing of ages against us. Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States (Laughter and applause). I say again, this is our chance, and woe betide us if we fail to embrace it. The immortal bard hath told us:
There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. We must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.
Do not flatter yourselves, my friends, that you are more important to the government than the government is to you. You stand but as the plank to the ship. This rebellion can be put down without your help. Slavery can be abolished by white men, but liberty so won by the black man, while it may leave him an object of pity, can never make him an object of respect.
Depend upon it. This is no time for hesitation. Do you say you want the same pay that white men get? I believe that the justice and magnanimity of your country will speedily grant it. But will you be overnice about this manner? Do you get as good wages as white men get by being out of the service? Don’t you work for less every day than white men get? You know you do. Do I hear you say you want black officers? Very well, and I have not the slightest doubt that in the progress of this war we shall see black officers, black colonels and black generals even. But is it not ridiculous in us in all at once refusing to be commanded by white men in times of war, when we are everywhere commanded by white men in times of peace? Do I hear you say still that you are a son, and want your mother provided for in your absence? – a husband, and want your wife cared for? – a brother, and want your sister secured against want? I honor you for your solicitude. Your mothers, your wives, and your sisters all got to be cared for and an association of gentlemen, composed of responsible white and colored men, is now being organized in this city for this very purpose.
Do I hear you say you offered your services to Pennsylvania and you were refused? I know it, but what of that? The State is not more than the nation. The greater includes the lesser. Because the State refuses, you should all the more readily turn to the United States (applause). When the children fall out, they should refer their quarrel to the parent. “You came unto your own and your own received you not.” But the broad gates of the United States stand open night and day. Citizenship in the United States will, in the end, secure your citizenship in the State.
Young men of Philadelphia, you are without excuse. The hour has arrived, and your place is in the Union army. Remember that the musket – the United States musket with its bayonet of steel – is better than all mere parchment guarantees of liberty. In your hands that musket means liberty; and should your constitutional rights at the close of this war be denied, which in the nature of things, it cannot be, your brethren are safe while you have a Constitution which proclaims your right to keep and bear arms (Immense cheering).
How stands the case with the recently emancipated millions of Negro people in our own country? What is their condition today? What is their relation to the people who formerly held them as slaves? These are important questions, and they are such as trouble the minds of thoughtful men of all colors, at home and abroad. By law, by the Constitution of the United States, slavery has no existence in our country. The legal form has been abolished. By the law and the Constitution, the Negro is a man and a citizen, and has all the rights and liberties guaranteed to any other variety of the human family, residing in the United States.
He has a country, a flag, and a government, and may legally claim full and complete protection under the laws. It was the ruling wish, intention, and purpose of the loyal people, after rebellion was suppressed, to have an end to the entire cause of that calamity, ’by forever putting away the system of slavery and its incidents. In pursuance of this idea, the Negro was made free, made a citizen, made eligible to hold office, to be a juryman, a legislator, and a magistrate. To this end, several amendments to the Constitution were proposed, recommended, and adopted. They are now a part of the supreme law of the land, binding alike on every State and Territory of the United States, North and South. Briefly, this is our legal and theoretical condition. This is our condition on paper and parchment. If only from the national statute book we were left to learn the true condition of the Negro race, the result would be altogether creditable to the American people ... It would give them a clear title to a place among the most enlightened and liberal nations of the world. We would say of our country, as Curran once said of England, “The spirit of British laws makes liberty commensurate with and inseparable from British soil.” Now I say that this eloquent tribute to England, if only we looked into our Constitution, might apply to us. In that instrument we have laid down the law, now and forever, that there shall be no slavery or involuntary servitude in this republic, except for crime.
We have gone still further. We have laid the heavy hand of the Constitution upon the matchless meanness of caste, as well as upon the hell-black crime of slavery. We have declared before all the world that there shall be no denial of rights on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The advantage gained in this respect is immense.
It is a great thing to have the supreme law of the land on the side of justice and liberty. It is the line up to which the nation is destined to march – the law to which the nation’s life must ultimately conform. It is a great principle, up to which we may educate the people, and to this extent its value exceeds all speech.
But today, in most of the Southern States, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments are virtually nullified.
The rights which they were intended to guarantee are denied and held in contempt. The citizenship granted in the Fourteenth Amendment is practically a mockery, and the right to vote, provided in the Fifteenth Amendment, is literally stamped out in face of government. The old master class is today triumphant, and the newly enfranchised class in a condition but little above that in which they were found before the rebellion.
Do you ask me how, after all that has been done, this state of things has been made possible? I will tell you. Our Reconstruction measures were radically defective. They left the former slave completely in the power of the old master, the loyal citizen in the hands of the disloyal rebel against the government. Wise, grand, and comprehensive in scope and design as were the Reconstruction measures, high and honorable as were the intentions of the statesmen by whom they were framed and adopted, time and experience, which try all things, have demonstrated that they did not successfully meet the case.
In the hurry and confusion of the hour, and the eager desire to have the Union restored, there was more care for the sublime superstructure of the Republic than for the solid foundation upon which it could alone be upheld. To the freedmen was given the machinery of liberty, but there was denied to them the steam to put it in motion. They were given the uniform of soldiers, but no arms; they were called citizens, but left subjects; they were called free but left almost slaves. The old master class was not deprived of the power of life and death, which was the soul of the relation of master and slave. They could not, of course, sell their former slaves, but they retained the power to starve them to death, and wherever this power is held there is the power of slavery. He who can say to his fellow man, “You shall serve me or starve,” is a master and his subject is a slave. This was seen and felt by Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, and leading stalwart Republicans; and had their councils prevailed the terrible evils from which we now suffer would have been averted. The Negro today would not be on his knees, as he is, abjectly supplicating the old master class to give him leave to toil. Nor would he now be leaving the South as from a doomed city, and seeking a home in the uncongenial North, but tilling his native soil in comparative independence. Though no longer a slave, he is in a thralldom grievous and intolerable, compelled to work for whatever his employer is pleased to pay him, swindled out of his hard earnings by money orders redeemed in stores, compelled to pay the price of an acre of ground for its use during a single year, to pay four times more than a fair price for a pound of bacon, and to be kept upon the narrowest margin between life and starvation. Much complaint has been made that the freedmen have shown so little ability to take care of themselves since their Emancipation. Men have marveled that they have made so little progress. I question the justice of this complaint. It is neither reasonable, nor in any sense just. To me the wonder is, not that the freedmen have made so little progress, but, rather, that they have made so much; not that they have been standing still, but that they have been able to stand at all.
We have only to reflect for a moment upon the situation in which these people found themselves when liberated. Consider their ignorance, their poverty, their destitution, and their absolute dependence upon the very class by which they had been held in bondage for centuries, a class whose very sentiment was averse to their freedom; and we shall be prepared to marvel that they have, under the circumstances, done so well.
History does not furnish an example of Emancipation under conditions less friendly to the emancipated class than this American example. Liberty came to the freedmen of the United States not in mercy, but in wrath, not by moral choice, but by military necessity, not by the generous action of the people among whom they were to live, and whose good-will was essential to the success of the measure, but by strangers, foreigners, invaders, trespassers, aliens, and enemies. The very manner of their Emancipation invited to the heads of the freedmen the bitterest hostility of race and class. They were hated because they had been slaves, hated because they were now free, and hated because of those who had freed them. Nothing was to have been expected other than what has happened, and he is a poor students of the human heart who does not see that the old master class would naturally employ every power and means in their reach to make the great measure of Emancipation unsuccessful and utterly odious. It was born in the tempest and whirlwind of war, and has lived in a storm of violence and blood. When the Hebrews were emancipated, they were told to take spoil from the Egyptians. When the serfs of Russia were emancipated, they were given three acres of ground upon which they could live and make a living. But not so when our slaves were emancipated ... They were sent away empty-handed, without money, without friends and without a foot of land upon which to stand. Old and young, sick and well, were turned loose to the open sky, naked to their enemies. The old slave quarter that had before sheltered them and the fields that had yielded them corn were now denied them. The old master class, in its wrath, said, “Clear out! The Yankees have freed you, now let them feed and shelter you!”
Last updated on 10.2.2009