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Chapter 13: Black ascendancy.

in the relations of her White people to the coloured race, South Carolina is the most unlucky section of America. In Louisiana the two colours are nearly balanced. Nine or ten years may turn the scale; since the European family increases while the African falls away. Even in Mississippi the majority of coloured people is not great; not more than seven Blacks to six Whites. Neither of these unhappy States is so far overweighted by her African numbers as to make contention in the ballot-boxes hopeless. In South Carolina-called the Prostrate State-the case is otherwise. Negro ascendancy is complete; the African and his bastard brother the Mulatto reign supreme.

The last census gives ten Africans to seven Europeans in the State of South Carolina. In seven [135] counties the Whites have a good majority; in three others they have a slight majority; while in the remaining twenty-two counties the Negro majorities are large. In Richland County and Charleston County they number two to one. Among the bayous and savannahs the dark people are almost separated from the fair. In Beaufort County they are nearly six to one; in Georgetown County they are nearly seven to one. Greenville, Anderson, and Spartanburg counties may return scholars, advocates, and planters to the Legislature; but the voice of a Trenholm or a Russell counts for no more in the assembly than that of a Negro from the swamp; and for every Trenholm or Russell in the assembly of South Carolina there are three Negroes from the swamp. Under a law of equality, enforced by a Federal army, what chance has the European settler in such a State?

Dark as the prospect is, the Carolinians are not sure that they have reached their blackest point. The great zone of swamp and savannah, stretching from Cape Fear to the Mississippi, and from the Mississippi back to St. Andrew's Sound, appears to be the African's new home. Within this zone [136] he lives and thrives ; and if he has a preference within this zone it is for the hot and humid regions lying between Columbia and the sea. Climate and produce suit him equally. Squash is cheap, tobacco grows wild, and sugar canes abound. Here, if anywhere, the Negro may hope to make a stand; and hither, it would seem, the Africans are tending, under the action of those mysterious laws of race which the Emancipation Act has called into free and easy play.

In other zones the Africans are falling off. Above this sympathetic zone, yet still within the Southern limits, runs a line of country from the Chesapeake to the Missouri and the Arkansas, in which Negroes dwelt and multiplied in a state of servitude. But from these great districts they are now retreating towards the South and towards the sea. Missouri and Kentucky are casting out their Negro citizens, not by public edicts, but by agencies of which no record can be kept. Maryland is following Kentucky, and Virginia following Maryland.

Whether the whole displacement springs from a mere shifting of the Africans from North to [137] South, is matter of dispute. Who understands those movements which are common to man and beast, to bird and fish? What sorcerer has probed the secret of the pilchard, the locust, and the springbok? Who knows the true reasons which led the Goth in ancient days to leave his native seat, which drives the Mongol at this present hour to quit his sacred soil? To say that the ancient Goth and modern Mongol break away from old associations in search of food and drink, is but to answer for a part of the material facts. That theory would not cover the case of bird and fish, much less of man and beast. Some creatures move in search of warmth and light, and some are led by instincts and emotions tending to the nurture of life. Men are often swayed by higher instincts than the love of meat and warmth. What forces drove the Crusaders to Syria and the Pilgrims to New England? Not the want of food and drink. What passion led the Jesuits to Paraguay, the Franciscans to Mexico? Not the desire to lodge in huts and cover the body with antelope skins. What impulse carries the Russ to Troitza, the Moor to Mecca, and the Mormon to Salt Lake? [138]

“ You think the coloured people are moving from Kentucky and Virginia into South Carolina?”

“Not a doubt of it,” says a journalist of whom we seek an answer. “Always on the road, in my vocation, I see the files and squads, full-blood, mulattoes, and quadroons, all creeping from the North. Sickness thins the number; for the darkies are rotten sheep, and perish on the road. More die than reach our soil.”

What are the facts? Are South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi, chiefly South Carolina, taking in the whole drain from Missouri and Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia? Or, beyond the change implied by exodus, is there a great margin of displacement, telling of decay?

Two tests may be employed. Is the African family on the whole increasing in America? Are the members of this family better lodged and fed?

Opinions differ as to whether the Africans are increasing in America. The rate of increase has assuredly fallen off. Nobody fancies they are multiplying like the Europeans in America. Every statist owns that they are not growing under freedom as they grew under servitude. Nor is there much [139] difference as to whether Negroes and Mulattoes. are better lodged and fed in freedom than they were in servitude. Exceptions may occur, but as a rule the coloured people live in worse houses and eat less healthy food. A man sucks more canes, and chews more quids; yet eats less wholesome food, and occupies less wholesome rooms. Child murder, the vice of every savage tribe, has come to be a common crime.

Negroes are averse to rearing offspring. Children give much trouble, cost much money, and involve much care. In servitude the Negress was compelled to nurse her offspring, for her children were property. In freedom, she is left to instinct; and the instinct of a Negress, like that of a Mongol and a Fijian, sometimes tempts her to this form of murder. Papals and Bulloms slay their issue in Africa; and American teaching has not rooted out this African custom in America. In a state of freedom the original genius of a race is likely to return. In South Carolina, a Negro, living under freedom, has to feed and clothe his child, and every dollar spent on his baby's food and clothes, is so much loss to him in quids and drams. Child murder, I [140] am told, is now as common in the Negro swamp, as in a Chinese street or on a Tartar steppe.

This is the true Negro Question; not such actual trifles as whether Blacks shall ride in the same cars and sit at the same tables as Whites: or such relative trifles as whether Blacks shall vote, make laws, and carry arms like Whites? The true Negro Question in South Carolina and elsewhere is whether, in the freedom of nature, the coloured man can live?

In servitude men are not allowed to roam. The main step, perhaps, from savage licence into settled law, is that abridgment of personal liberty which converts a nomad into a citizen. Some savages cannot take this step. Can you confine an African? In freedom everyone is master of his whim. He comes and goes as fancy prompts-one week in Missouri, next week in Tennessee, a third week on the Gulf. Turkey is trying to settle some of her Arab tribes, but she has met so far with no success. Russia's attempt to colonize her steppe led her into serfage, and three hundred years of iron discipline were needed ere her rulers thought the

Russ people broken of their ancient wandering [141] habits. Are the Africans yet prepared for settlement? You cannot fix a free Sioux, or a free Apache on the soil. A Red man cannot live in competition with a White neighbour. Has the Negro strength enough to stand alone? Under servitude the Black men grew in numbers; under freedom the Red men fell in numbers. Will the Black men under freedom fail as the Red men fail? Have the good and pious men who gave the Negro freedom, only issued, in their ignorance of nature's rules, an edict for his slow but sure extermination from the soil?

“Be sure of one thing,” says Colonel Binfield, a Southern officer, who has studied the Negro Question on the battle-field, in the tobacco grounds, and in the public schools, “we shall have no more disorder in the streets. No local passion will dictate our course. We made a great mistake in parting from our flag; but we have long since seen the error of our way, and we shall not commit that fault again. Our trust is in the law of life. The Negro had his day of power. If he chafed us by his petulance and folly he never awed us by his strength. Even now, when he has a ruler of his [142] own opinions in Columbia, a majority of friends in the Legislature, and the command of all the public forces, we have no fear of him. A European is too strong for any African. Unless he stabs you in the dark, or throws a brand into your room, a coloured man can hardly do you harm. The tussle of a White man with a Negro is the tussle of a man with a woman. It is the same in masses. Plant me one of your Utopias on the Santee or Edisto; set me ten Europeans in the midst of ninety Africans; give each of your hundred settlers an equal share of soil, seeds, implements, and money; start them with a free code and equal rights, and leave them to till the ground, to make laws, and to rule themselves. In ten years the White men will own the soil, the granaries, and the money. Nature has given the White man brain and strength, invention, courage, and endurance of a higher quality, on a larger scale, than she has given these elements to the Black. In spite of accidents the White man must be master on this continent. Why, then, should we provoke an issue in the field? No one but an enemy of White civilization wants a second [143] civil war. We only need to wait, certain to conquer if we wait.”

My friend is right. A Negro cannot stand the impact of free life; the pressure rends and grinds him. All the vital forces of this world are relative, and for twenty centuries Europe has been the nursery of living power. Europe supplies the other continents with life-life in plants and animals, as well as in the higher forms of man. You bring a spruce from Europe to America. That spruce will grow into a forest, and will kill the native trees all round. Import a horse and cow, and they will drive out buffalo and elk. The lower forms give way in presence of a higher type.

Negro ascendancy, even though supported for a time by Federal troops, will fail before White science, as surely as a forest of plants fades before an English spruce and a herd of game before an English horse.

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