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Section Ninth: Emancipation of the African race.


In the debate, on the passage of the bill amending the Charter of the City of Washington, in May, 1864, prejudice and injustice still insisted on inserting the word while before the word male, so as to exclude Colored suffrage. When all its advocates had finished, Mr. Sumner dropped a few words, especially to Mr. Willey, of West Virginia, who had opposed the extension of the right to Colored people, with the violence indicated by [457] these words:—‘This provision, I undertake to say, is not only odious to the people of this District, but that it will be disastrous in its results, not only here, but in its influence on popular opinion everywhere in the nation.’
Mr. President,—Slavery dies hard. It still stands front to front with our embattled armies, holding them in check. It dies hard on the battle-field; it dies hard in the Senate Chamber. We have been compelled during this session, to hear various defences of slavery, sometimes in its most offensive forms. Slave-hunting has been openly vindicated; and now to-day the exclusion of Colored persons from the electoral franchise, simply on account of color, is openly vindicated; and the Senator from West Virginia, newly introduced into this Chamber, from a State born of Freedom, rises to uphold Slavery in one of its meanest products. Had Slavery never existed among us, there would have been no such prejudice as that of which the Senator makes himself the Representative. * * The Senator says he has not vindicated Slavery. If he has not used the word, he has vindicated the thing, in one of its most odious features. He seeks to blast a whole race, merely on account of color. Would he ever have proposed such injustice, but for the prejudice nursed by Slavery? Had not Slavery existed, would any such idea have found place in a Senator naturally so generous and humane? No, sir. He spoke with the voice of Slavery, which he cannot forget. He spoke under the unhappy and disturbing influences which Slavery has left in his mind.

Now, Sir, I am against Slavery, wherever it shows itself, whatever form it takes. I am against Slavery when compelled to meet it directly, and I am against Slavery in all its products and its offspring. I am against Slavery when encountering the beast outright, or only its tail. The prejudices of which the Senator makes himself the representative to-day, permit me to say, are nothing but the tail of Slavery. Unhappily, while we have succeeded in abolishing Slavery in this District, we have not yet abolished the tail: and the tail has representatives in the Senate chamber, as the beast once had. * * The enjoyment of the electoral franchise by the Colored citizens in the State of North Carolina, for a long time after the Constitution, is not a matter of doubt. Her most eminent magistrate, the late Mr. Justice Gaston, accomplished as a jurist and a man, laid down the law of his State in emphatic words. Pronouncing the opinion of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, in the case of The State vs. Manuel, in 1838, he said: [458]

‘Slaves manumitted here become free men, and therefore, if born in North Carolina, are citizens of North Carolina, and all free persons in the State are born citizens of the State. The Constitution extended the elective franchise to every free man who had arrived at the age of twenty-one, and paid a public tax: and it is a matter of universal notoriety that under it free persons, without regard to color, claimed and exercised the franchise until it was taken front free men of Color a few years since by our amended Constitution.’

At this moment of revolution, when our country needs the blessing of Almighty God, and the strong arm of all her children, this is not a time for us solemnly to enact injustice. In duty to our country, and in duty to God, I plead against any such thing. We must be against Slavery in its original shape, and in all its brood of prejudice and error.


This speech killed the bill. It was brought up again, but this second battle for suffrage in the District was lost this time by only two votes. In fact, it was a battle won; for shortly afterwards the emancipation of the Colored people of the District was made complete. A far greater measure, however, was soon to come before Congress. After a long and disjointed debate in the House of Representatives, a Bill was adopted by that body to establish a Bureau of Freedmen's affairs. When the Bill reached the Senate, a substitute was prepared by Mr. Sumner, for the House Bill was by no means satisfactory. Some of the best men in the country laid before the Committee different projects,—no less than nine or ten in all,—and among their authors were such men as Robert Dale Owen, John Jay, and Edward L. Pierce. But the Bill drafted by Mr. Sumner, and adopted by his Committee, after having been prepared with the utmost care, was presented to the Senate, and explained and enforced by Mr. Sumner in an able [459] speech. It embraced ten sections, the first of which provided that ‘An office should be created in the Treasury Department, to be called the Bureau of Freedmen, and meaning thereby such persons as have become free since the beginning of the present war.’

From this most effective and beautiful speech I cannot resist the temptation of extracting a few passages. He opened thus:


Mr. President,—The Senate, only a short time ago, was engaged for a week considering how to open an iron way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is now to consider how to open the way from Slavery to Freedom. * * In what I have to offer, I shall confine myself to a simple statement which I hope will not be taken as dictated by any spirit of controversy, or any pride of opinion. Nothing of that kind could justly enter into such a discussion as this. The importance of the measure is seen at a glance; it is clearly a charity and a duty. By virtue of existing Acts of Congress, and also under the Proclamation of the President, large numbers of slaves have suddenly become free. They may be counted already by the hundred-thousand; in the progress of victory, they will be counted by the million. Deriving their freedom from the United States, the national government cannot be excused from making such provisions as may be required for their immediate protection during the present transition period. The freedom conferred must be rendered useful, or at least saved from being a burden. Reports, official and unofficial, show the necessity of action. In some places it is a question of life and death.

After glancing at these reports from the Southern States, which showed that wherever our arms had prevailed, the old social system had been destroyed,—masters having fled from slaves, and slaves assuming a new character—released from former obligations and sent adrift in the world, rolling like eddies around military posts, and all of them looking to the victorious power to [460] which they had fled for protection;—the exigency was pressing. It had been alleged that most of them were idle and vicious, and indisposed to work; but General banks, then having command in Louisiana, used these words in one of his despatches:—‘Wherever in the Department they have been well treated, and reasonably compensated, they have invariably rendered faithful service to their employers. From many persons who manage plantations, I have received the information that there is no difficulty whatever in keeping them at work, if the conditions to which I have referred, are complied with.’


But the curse of Slavery was still on them—somebody must take them by the hand; for, however generous had been the aid given by private societies organized at the East and West, their efforts, of necessity, were wholly inadequate to the work. Without government supervision, distress would become all but universal, and thousands be left to perish. Mr. Sumner showed that the service required was too vast and complex for unorganized individuals. Nothing but the government could supply the adequate machinery, and extend the proper net-work of assistance, with the proper unity of operation. The national government must interfere in the case precisely as in building the Pacific Railroad. It was therefore a matter of imperative necessity that a Bridge from Slavery to Freedom should be constructed; and call it charity, or duty, it was as sacred as humanity. The bill he had proposed, would protect the Freedman from any system of serfdom, or enforced apprenticeship [461] —an idea which many of the former slave-masters clung to as a reliance for the still unremunerated labor of those from whom it had once been exacted. To the Treasury Department had already been confided jurisdiction over ‘houses, tenements, lands and plantations, deserted and abandoned by insurgents within the lines of military occupation.’ The Bill provided against any system of enforced labor or apprenticeship. It was constructed just as carefully as to what it should not attempt to do; —the trouble being in all such cases in trying to accomplish too much. ‘It does not,’ as he remarked, ‘assume to provide ways and means of support for the Freedmen; but it does look to securing them the opportunity of labor, according to well-guarded contracts, and under the friendly advice of the agents of the Government, who will take care that they are protected from abuse of all kinds.’

The Commission on Freedmen, appointed by the Secretary of War, in their report had already said: ‘For a time we need a Freedmen's Bureau; not because these people are negroes only,—because they are men who have been for generations despoiled of their rights. This Commission has already recommended the establishment of such a Bureau.’

It was a long, hard fight. It encountered at every step, whenever it came up, bitter opposition. It finally passed the Senate, on the 28th of June; but it had a still harder struggle to go through in the House, where it did not pass until the 9th of February of the following year, and then only by a majority of two. It had the ordeal of another struggle in the Senate, when it at last passed that body without a division, and on the same day, March 3d, was approved by the President, and the [462] Freedmen's Bureau was established. For whatever abuses may afterwards have crept into the administration of the system it was no more to blame, than was the system of contracts for munitions of war, or any other department—for the war to save the Union was disgraced from beginning to end by robbery and plunder. But the historic pen which traces the first steps of millions of Freedmen to civilization, will have to record the fact that this Bureau was, what Mr. Sumner had first declared it to be, the Bridge to Freedom.1



On the 23d of January, 1863, a joint resolution was offered in the Senate, advising retaliation for the cruel treatment of prisoners in the hands of the Rebels.
‘As it has come to the knowledge of Congress, that great numbers of our soldiers who have fallen as prisoners of war into the hands of the insurgents, have been subjected to treatment unexampled for cruelty in the history of civilized war, and finding its parallels only in the conduct of savage tribes–a treatment resulting in the death of multitudes by the slow but designed process of starvation, and by mortal diseases occasioned by insufficient and unhealthy food, by wanton exposure of their person to the inclemency of the weather, and by deliberate assassination of innocent and unoffending men, and the murder in cold blood of prisoners after surrender; and as a continuance of these barbarities, in contempt of the laws of war, and in disregard of the remonstrance of the national authorities, has presented the alternative of suffering our brave soldiers thus to be destroyed, or to apply the principle of retaliation for their protection;’ the resolution declares that, ‘in the judgment of Congress [464] it has become justifiable and necessary that the President should, in order to prevent the continuance and recurrence of such barbarities, and to insure the observance by the insurgents of the laws of civilized war, resort at once to measures of retaliation; that in the opinion of Congress, such retaliation ought to be inflicted upon the insurgent officers now in our hands, or hereafter to fall into our hands as prisoners; that such officers ought to be subjected to like treatment practised toward our officers or soldiers in the hands of the insurgents, in respect to quantity and quality of food, clothing, fuel, medicine, medical attendance, personal exposure, or other mode of dealing with them; that, with a view to the same ends, the insurgent prisoners in our hands ought to be placed under the control and in the keeping of officers and men who have themselves been prisoners in the hands of the insurgents, and have thus acquired a knowledge of their mode of treating Union prisoners; that explicit instructions ought to be given to the forces having the charge of such insurgent prisoners, requiring them to carry out strictly and promptly the principles of this resolution in every case, until the President, having received satisfactory information of the abandonment by the insurgents of such barbarous practices, shall revoke or modify those instructions. Congress do not, however, intend by this resolution to limit or restrict the power of the President to the modes or principles of retaliation herein mentioned, but only to advise a resort to them as demanded by the occasion.’



This resolution was vigorously defended by Mr. Wade, of Ohio, and Mr. Howard, of Michigan; but Mr. Sumner moved the following, as a substitute:
That retaliation is harsh always, even in the simplest cases, and is permissible only where, in the first place, it may reasonably be expected to effect its object; and where, in the second place, it is consistent with the usages of civilized society; and that, in the absence of these essential conditions, it is a useless barbarism, having no other end than vengeance, which is forbidden alike to nations and to men.

And be it further resolved, That the treatment of our officers and soldiers in rebel prisons is cruel, savage and heart-rending, beyond all precedent; that it is shocking to morals; that it is an offence against human nature itself; that it adds new guilt to the crime of the rebellion, and constitutes an example from which history will turn with sorrow and disgust.

And be it further resolved, That any attempted imitation of rebel [466] barbarism in the treatment of prisoners would be plainly impracticable, on account of its inconsistency with the prevailing sentiments of humanity among us; that it would be injurious at home, for it would barbarize the whole community; that it would be utterly useless, for it could not affect the cruel authors of the revolting conduct which we seek to overcome; that it would be immoral, inasmuch as it proceeded from vengeance alone; that it could have no other result than to degrade the national character and the national name, and to bring down upon our country the reprobation of history; and that being thus impracticable, useless, immoral, and degrading, it must be rejected as a measure of retaliation, precisely as the barbarism of roasting or eating prisoners is always rejected by civilized powers.

And be it further resolved, That the United States, filled with grief and sympathy for the cherished citizens who, as officers and soldiers, have become the victims of Heaven-defying outrage, hereby declare their solemn determination to put an end to this great iniquity by putting an end to the rebellion of which it is the natural fruit; that to secure this humane and righteous consummation, they pledge anew their best energies and all the resources of the whole people; and they call upon all to bear witness that in this necessary warfare with barbarism, they renounce [467] all vengeance and every evil example, and plant themselves firmly on the sacred landmarks of civilization, under the protection of that God who is present with every prisoner, and enables heroic souls to suffer for their country.

In sustaining his Resolutions Mr. Sumner said:—
Now, sir, I believe that the Senate will not undertake in this age of Christian light, under any inducement, under any provocation, to counsel the Executive Government to enter into any such competition with barbarism. Sir, the thing is impossible; it cannot be entertained; we cannot be cruel, or barbarous, or savage, because the rebels, whom we are now meeting in warfare, are cruel, barbarous, and savage. We cannot imitate that detested example. Sir, we find no precedent for it in our own history, nor in the history of other nations. * * The Senator from Michigan, who advocates so eloquently this unprecedented retaliation, attempted a description of the torments of the rebel prisons; but language failed him. After speaking of their “ immeasurable criminality,” and the “ horrors of these scenes,” which he said were “absolutely indescribable,” he proceeded to ask that we should do these same things; that we should take the lives of prisoners, even by freezing and starvation, or turn them into living skeletons—by Act of Congress.

Mr. Sumner's amendment, to the honor of the Senate, was adopted by a large majority, although rejected in the House.


In a letter to the New England Society of New York, December 21st, 1863, Mr. Sumner said: ‘Amid all the sorrows of a conflict without precedent, let us hold fast to the consolation that it is in simple obedience to the spirit in which New England was founded, that we are now resisting the bloody efforts to raise a wicked power on the corner-stone of Human Slavery, and that as New Englanders we could not do otherwise. If such [468] a wicked power can be raised on this continent, the Mayflower traversed its wintry sea in vain.’ ‘We remember too that another ship crossed at the same time, buffeting the same sea. It was a Dutch ship with twenty slaves, who were landed at Jamestown, in Virginia, and became the fatal seed of that Slavery which has threatened to overshadow the land. Thus the same ocean, in the same year, bore to the Western Continent the Pilgrim Fathers, consecrated to Human Liberty, and also a cargo of slaves. In the holds of those two ships were the germs of the present direful war; and the simple question now is between the Mayflower and the slave ship. Who that has not forgotten God can doubt the result? The Mayflower must prevail.’


Being invited by the Colored citizens of Boston to a public meeting for the celebration of Emancipation, he was obliged to decline; but in reply, he said: ‘I am glad that you celebrated the day. It deserved your celebration, your thanksgiving, and your prayers. On that day an Angel appeared upon the earth.’


On the building of the Pacific Railroad—May 23d, 1863—‘I have always voted for it, and now that it is authorized by Congress, I follow it with hope and confidence. Let the Road be built, and its influence will be incalculable. People will wonder that the world lived so long without it. Conjoining the two oceans, it will be an agency of matchless power,—not only commercial, [469] but political. It will be a new girder to the Union, a new help to business, and a new charm to life. New houses and new towns will spring up, making new demand for labor and supplies. Civilization will be projected into the forest and over the plain, while the desert is made to yield its increase. There is no productiveness to. compare with that from the upturned sod which receives the iron rail. In its crop are school-houses and churches, cities and States.’


On the ‘Union of the Mississippi and the Lakes by canal’—May 27, 1863—‘The proposition to unite the greatest navigable river in the world with the greatest inland sea, is characteristic of the West. Each is worthy of the other. With this union, the Gulf of Mexico will be joined to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the whole continent, from Northern cold to Southern heat, traversed by one generous flood, bearing upon its bosom untold commerce. Let its practicability be demonstrated and the country will command it to be done, as it has already commanded the opening of the Mississippi. Triumphant over the wickedness of an accursed Rebellion, we shall achieve another triumph, to take its place among the victories of Peace. Mirabeau was right when he protested against the use of the word impossible, as simple stupidity. But I doubt if the word will be found in any Western dictionary.’


The managers of the Young Men's Association of Albany, after excluding from their lecture-room all [470] Colored persons, had invited Senator Sumner to address them, on the character and history of Lafayette. Their heroic achievement seems to have been fully appreciated, and they received the following well-merited reply:— ‘I am astonished at the request. I cannot consent to speak of Lafayette, who was not ashamed to fight beside a black soldier, to an audience too delicate to sit beside a black citizen. I cannot speak of Lafayette, who was a friend of universal liberty, under the auspices of a society which makes itself the champion of caste and vulgar prejudice.’ This can hardly be called a Sumner milestone, but it is one of those little shining pebbles that the feet of the traveler may turn up, on the sands of time —like some ancient intaglio—with the two charmed names: LafayetteSumner.


At last the long struggle was drawing to a close; the battle in the Senate was virtually ended — the victory won. While the Constitutional Amendment abolishing Slavery throughout the United States, was on its passage, 8th of April, 1864, the great Massachusetts Senator rose in his place in the Senate House, and delivered his final argument, which opened with these words:—
Mr. President,—If an angel from the skies or a stranger from another planet were permitted to visit this earth and to examine its surface, who can doubt that his eyes would rest with astonishment upon the outstretched extent and exhaustless resources of this republic, young in years, but already noted beyond any dynasty in history? In proportion as he considered and understood all that enters into and constitutes the national life, his astonishment would increase, for he would find a numerous people, powerful beyond precedent, without king or noble, but with the schoolmaster instead. And yet the astonishment he confessed, [471] as all these things unrolled before him, would swell into marvel, as he learned that in this republic, arresting his admiration, where is neither king nor noble, but the schoolmaster instead, there are four million human beings in abject bondage, degraded to be chattels, under the pretence of property in man, driven by the lash like beasts, despoiled of all their rights, even the right to knowledge and the sacred right of family, so that the relation of husband and wife is impossible, and no parent can claim his own child, while all are condemned to brutish ignorance. Startled by what he beheld, the stranger would naturally inquire by what authority, under what sanction, and through what terms of law or constitution, this fearful inconsistency, so shocking to human nature itself, continues to be upheld. His growing wonder would know no bounds, when he was pointed to the Constitution of the United States, as final guardian and conservator of this peculiar and many-headed wickedness.


After showing that Slavery finds no support in the Constitution, he glances at the positive provisions by which it is brought completely under the control of Congress,—

1. Among the powers of Congress, and associated with the power to lay and collect taxes, is that ‘to provide for the common defence and general welfare.’ In the Virginia Convention, Mr. George Mason, a most decided opponent of the Constitution, said: ‘That Congress should have power to provide for the general welfare of the Union, I grant.’ But Patrick Henry was far more explicit; he foresaw that this power would be directed against Slavery, and he unhesitatingly declared:

Slavery is detested. We feel its fatal effects. We deplore it, with all the pity of humanity. Let all these considerations, at some future period, press with full force on the mind of Congress. Let that urbanity, which, I trust, will distinguish America, and the necessity of of national defence—let all these things operate on their minds. They [472] will search that paper—the Constitution—and see if they have power of manumission—and have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defence and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of Slavery? May they not pronounce all slaves free? And will they not be warranted by that power? This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point —they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it.

2. Next comes the fountain. ‘Congress shall have power to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy.’ He shows that this power must authorize the government to contract with all enlisted soldiers, and such a contract would be an act of manumission, for a slave cannot make a contract.

3. There is still another clause. ‘The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union, a Republican form of Government.’ John Adams, in the correspondence of his old age, says: ‘The customary meanings of the words “Republican” and “ Commonwealth” have been infinite. They have been applied to every government under heaven—that of Turkey, and that of Spain, as well as that of Athens, and of Rome; of Geneva and San Marino.’ But the guaranteeing of a Republican form of Government, was too explicit to leave any doubt; and such a form could not embrace involuntary servitude.

4. Another source of power is found in—‘No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.’ Liberty can thus be lost, only by ‘due process of law.’ This was the sheet-anchor of all the old Bills of Rights. So Lord Coke defined it as being borrowed from the Common Law. The late Justice Bronson, of New York, in a judicial opinion, said: ‘The meaning of the section, then, seems to be, that no [473] member of the State shall be disfranchised, or deprived of any of his rights or privileges, unless the matter shall be adjudged against him upon trial had according to the course of the Common Law. * * The words “ due process of law,” in this place, cannot mean less than a prosecution or suit instituted and conducted according to the prescribed forms and solemnities for ascertaining guilt, or determining the title to property.’ He thus argues conclusively that, under these guarantees and prohibitions, no person can be held as a slave.

‘Constitutional slavery,’ Mr. Sumner said, ‘has always been an outlaw wherever that provision of the Constitution was applicable. Nothing against slavery can be unconstitutional: it is hesitation that is unconstitutional. And yet, slavery still exists, in defiance of all these requirements,’ and he demands that it shall be forever abolished, by the supreme authority of the Republic. That authority, he claims, does exist in Congress, which is clothed with the supreme power of legislation; and if this shall be called in question, we have that grand recourse still left,—appealing to the authority which made the Constitution. Therefore he argues for that Amendment which was ultimately to follow the law as enacted by Congress, after the hard struggle Liberty had to go through, to achieve its final victory.


Tuesday, the 27th day of January, 1865, was the time for the final vote on the Amendment to the Constitution, in the House of Representatives. Vice-President Wilson says in his ‘Anti-Slavery Measures of Congress,’— [474]
Notice had been previously given, by Mr. Ashley, that the vote would be taken on that day. The nation, realizing the transcendent magnitude of the issue, awaited the result with profound anxiety. The galleries, and the avenues leading to them, were early thronged by a dense mass intensely anxious to witness the scene. Senators, Cabinet officers, Judges of the Supreme Court, and even strangers, crowding on to the floor of the House, watched its proceedings with absorbing interest. During the roll-call, the vote of Speaker Colfax, and the votes of Mr. English, Mr. Ganson, and Mr. Baldwin, with assured success, were warmly applauded by the Republican side. And when the Speaker declared, that, the Constitutional majority of two-thirds having voted in the affirmative, the joint resolution was passed, the announcement was received by the House and the spectators on the floor with a wild outburst of enthusiastic applause. The Republican members instantly sprang to their feet, and applauded with cheers and clapping of hands. The spectators in the crowded galleries waved their hats, and made the Chamber ring with enthusiastic plaudits. Hundreds of ladies, gracing the galleries with their presence, rose in their seats; and by waving their handkerchiefs, and participating in the general demonstration of enthusiasm, added to the intense excitement and interest of a scene that will long be remembered by those who were fortunate enough to witness it. For several minutes, the friends of this crowning act of emancipation gave themselves up to congratulations and demonstrations of public joy. ‘In honor,’ said Mr. Ingersoll (Rep.), of Illinois, ‘of this immortal and sublime event, I move that the House adjourn.’ The Speaker declared the motion carried; and then, again, cheering and demonstrations of applause were renewed. Mr. Harris (Dem.); of Maryland, demanded the yeas and nays on the adjournment, yeas, 121; nays, 24. So the House adjourned, having on that day passed a measure which made Slavery forever impossible in the Republic of the United States.


Those who knew and loved Mr. Lincoln as many of us did, were more disposed to sympathize with him in the deep sadness which weighed down his spirit, than to criticise his occasional facetious remarks, in which, on his account chiefly, we were so glad to hear him indulge [475] The following extracts from our first hundred years, page 596, may illustrate the subject:
The Dark in the White House.—Feb. 22, 1862.—‘Willie Lincoln is dead!’ Everybody in Washington knew Willie; and everybody was sad. Sad,—for it seemed hard for the lovely boy to be taken away so early, while the sun was just gilding the mountain up which he was pressing, and from which he could look down the sweet valley, and see so far into the future! Sad for her who held him as one of the jewels of her home-coronet; dearer than all the insignia of this world's rank. That coronet was broken, now. Its fragments might dazzle, and grace still; but it could never be the same coronet again. Sad for the master of the Executive Mansion, for there was weight enough pressing on that tired brain,—sorrow enough in that great heart. With the burden of a mighty republic on his shoulders—a republic betrayed, and wounded in the house of its friends—a republic that had cost so much and become so dear to its own true children, and in whose prosperity the hopes of all men who waited for the consolation of the nations, were bound up—a republic for whose safety and triumph, God, angels, and all good men would forever hold him responsible, and disaster clouding almost every battle-field—it seemed to us for a moment, when we heard the news of the boy's death, that even heaven's own ‘sweet fountain’ of pity had dried up.

It was a wild winter night, but I wished to see again how far the process of Willie's embalmment had gone, and as Dr. B——was to make one more visit that night, I took his arm at a late hour, and we walked up together. The wind howled desolately; angry gusts struck us at every corner: tempest-clouds were careering high up in the heavens: and the dead leaves of last year, as they flew cuttingly against our cheeks, seemed to have come out of their still graves to ‘join in the dreadful revelry’ of the death of the Republic of Washington, on the very anniversary of his birth—for it was on the eve of the 22d of February, the night in which he was born.

‘Is it not among the strangest of things that this event should have happened?’ ‘No, doctor: I do not so regard it; still stranger events than this have taken place in the White House. It has been no more exempt from trouble, than the other dwellings of America. Poor General Harrison entered it, as a Prince goes to his palace to rule a great people; in one month he was borne from it, to his grave. General Taylor, fresh from the fields of his fame as a patriot warrior, came here [476] only to pass a few months of troubled life, and then surrender to the only enemy he ever yielded to. Fillmore, who also was summoned here by the act of God, after acquitting himself most manfully and honorably of all his duties, had scarcely vacated the mansion, before he was called to entomb the wife of his youth and the mother of his children, of whom the fair one he loved best, soon after went to the same repose. He descended from his high place to become the chief mourner; and his ovation was a funeral at Buffalo. So, too, with his successor, who left the new-made grave of his only son in Concord, killed in an instant, to be inaugurated at the Capitol, and enter as a mourner, this stately mansion’

‘Yes, gentlemen,’ said Edward, the chief door-keeper, ‘it is all still in the house now.’ We entered the Green Room; Willie lay in his coffin. The lid was off. He was clothed in his soldier's dress. He had been embalmed by the process of Susquet, of Paris, and thus Willie Wallace Lincoln's body was prepared for its final resting-place in the home of his happy childhood. One more look at the calm face, which still wore its wonted expression of hope and cheerfulness, and we left him to his repose.

In the meantime, a measured footfall had come faintly from the East Room, and the tall form of the chief mourner was passing into the sacred place. ‘Is it all well?—All my thanks.’ Leaving the stricken President in the solemn silence of the deep night, alone with his boy, we passed out of the mansion. The coming storm was clouding the heavens with a deep mourning, and its heavy sighings wrapped the Home of the Presidents in sadness and gloom. ‘God heal the broken hearts left there,’ was our only prayer.


Being frequently asked during the war, to help friends prepare addresses to be delivered on the all-engrossing topic of the time, I sent the following hints for their use:—

The immolation and redemption of the African race.

Washington, Feb. 22, 1862.
Nations pay dear for liberty. Civilization—the sole object of free government—crystallizes slow. But, once firmly established, it resists the untiring ‘course of all-impairing Time.’ [477]

The true civilization, in perfection, is yet to come. The world has been filled with false civilizations; and history shows that they have not vitality enough to preserve nations from decadence.

It has been just as plainly proved that where slavery existed it either destroyed civilization, or was destroyed by it. The two never could live together. China and Japan are the only two ancient Asiatic nations that have preserved their early civilization, or even their existence. Slavery never existed among them.

So in Europe: Slavery destroyed every European nation that maintained it. Greece, Rome, the empire of the Othman,—where are they? But Slavery never existed among the Magyars or Slavonic nations; nor have they ever been subjugated, much less destroyed. Hungary is a vast and illuminated nation, and is advancing in civilization; while Russia has removed the last encumbrance to her progress by emancipating twenty million serfs, and is now moving on to complete civilization faster than any other people. The Swiss never breathed the tainted air of slavery; her people have always been free, and in civilization they have lagged behind those of no other country.

At an early period England and France abolished villanage, and followed in the wake of Italy, which was the first of the nations to give revival to letters, commerce, and arts.

So we find that just in proportion as nations emancipated themselves from the thraldom of a system of forced or involuntary labor, just in that proportion they advanced in knowledge, wealth, and the elements of endurance. A careful survey of truthful history would establish this as a fixed and clearly-determined law for the physical and moral progress and development of states. Nations may grow strong, or rather formidable, for a while, under the sceptre of a tyrant, and the slave-lash of an oligarchy. But such strength is weakness: it does not last. It is against all the ordinances of God that it should.

This is pre-eminently true in our age, when daylight is dawning upon all peoples. Darkness has lost its power. Universal light is now asserting its dominion. No power can contend against it. Darkness must give way.

So far as my argument on the subject of slavery in the United States or elsewhere is concerned, it matters not whether the reader accept or not the code of revealed religion which I offer as authority; for profane history coincides with it perfectly. There is no sort of conflict between the two. The plagues that wasted the vitals of (lead nations are just as legibly inscribed on their tombs, for their readers, as they were on the [478] pages of prophecy before the events took place. God alone writes history before it happens. Both records are so clear that he who runs may read; and the wise and good man who reads either will run to rescue his country from the curse which God has chained to the chariot-wheels even of the mightiest empires which dare to make war on the eternal principles of justice which support his empire.

Go where we will, from the Pillars of Hercules to the gates of the Oriental morning,—

Rude fragments now
Lie scatter'd where the shapely column stood.
Their palaces are dust.

Journey through the home of the Saracens,—a race of scholars and warriors,—

Dead Petra in her hill-tomb sleeps:
     Her stones of emptiness remain;
Around her sculptured mystery sweeps
     The lonely waste of Edom's plain.

Unchanged the awful lithograph
     Of power and glory undertrod,—
Of nations scatter'd like the chaff
     Blown from the threshing-floor of God.

Let us calculate the debt which America owes to Africa. We can reach something like an approximation to the number of Africans or Africano-Americans who have lived and died on our soil. We do not propose to enumerate any considerable portion of the wrongs we have inflicted on that people,—how many we stole from their homes,—how many perished in the passage,—how many cruelties and indignities they and their descendants have suffered, and are suffering to this hour. That were a work for which any created being would find himself unequal. It will be found to occupy no inconsiderable space in the records of the last tribunal before which the human race will be cited to appear.

We will therefore determine, as accurately as we can, how many lives Africa has offered up for this nation. But first let us glance at the origin of slavery in the United States. We borrow a striking passage from the classic and powerful pen of Senator Sumner, who has probably investigated the whole African question, in all its relations, more profoundly than any other man living,--certainly more so than any other American. In one of his orations he draws the following picturesque and starting contrast;— [479]

In the winter of 1620, the Mayflower landed its precious cargo at Plymouth rock. This small band, cheered by the valedictory prayers of the Puritan pastor, John Robinson, braved sea and wilderness for the sake of liberty. In this inspiration our Commonwealth began. That same year another cargo, of another character, was landed at Jamestown, in Virginia. It was nineteen slaves,—the first that ever touched and darkened our soil. Never in history was greater contrast. There was the Mayflower, filled with men,—intelligent, conscientious, prayerful,—all braced to hardy industry, who, before landing, united in a written compact by which they constituted themselves a “civil body politic,” bound “to frame just and equal laws.” And there was the slave-ship, with its fetters, its chains, its bludgeons, and its whips, with its wretched victims,—forerunners of the long agony of the slave-trade, —and with its wretched tyrants, rude, ignorant, and profane,

who had learn'd their only prayers
From curses,

and who carried in their hold the barbarous slavery whose single object is to compel labor without wages, which no just and equal laws can sanction.

‘Thus in the same year,’ says Charles Sumner, ‘began two mighty influences; and these two influences still prevail far and wide throughout the country. But they have met at last in final grapple; and you and I are partakers in this holy conflict. The question is simply between the Mayflower and the slave-ship.’

Beginning with the first importation of Africans in 1620 (nineteen), we find their increase till 1790, slave and free, amounting to 757,363. From 1790 (first census) to 1860 (eighth census), slave and free, 4,441,730. It is and will always remain impossible to determine the number of the African race whose ashes sleep in our soil; but, applying the ratio of increase from 1790 to 1860 to the period undetermined, it is easy to approximate the number. My most careful estimate renders it certain that the number of persons of African descent who have died in our country cannot fall short of eight millions and a half, or nearly twice as many as are now living.

Thus we roll up the figures to thirteen millions, living and (lead, each one of whom has felt the blighting curse of slavery,—more or less of the miseries and degradation which are its legitimate and inevitable consequences!

This is the immolation; and it is the most appalling and stupendous [480] in the annals of the human race. Leaving out all the barbarities attending the capture and ocean-transportation; the brutal atrocities the stolen Africans suffered by a system of merciless task-labor under the lash, the maiming and torture of nerve and muscle, with the endless category of physical suffering, still each one of the mighty host of Africano-Americans—an army of thirteen millions, bond and free, living and dead—appears in solemn judgment against his individual oppressor and against the whole nation. The one has perpetrated the murder, and the Government has stood by and consented unto his death, and held the garments of those that slew him.

What are the counts in this terrible indictment?

1. The annihilation of home, whose charities are just as dear to the lower as to the higher classes of beings. Torn from their continental homes and transplanted to a new world, they should at least have had a chance to strike their roots into a stranger soil. But cupidity, accident, or caprice tore the plant up by the roots, and, with comparatively few exceptions, subjected it to a new and trying process of acclimation.

2. The annihilation of marriage. This sacrilegious blow at the first, the holiest, and the dearest of all God's institutions struck the race. It cast the deadliest blight which can fall on man. It made more bastards in America than ever lived elsewhere under heaven.

3. The annihilation of light. This means the impious inauguration of heathenism in the very garden of God. No home, no wife or children he can call his own! Can a higher insult be offered to a man made in the divine image and for whom the Son of man died? Oh, how incomparably blessed in the contrast was the Thracian slave dragged to Rome to make, in the arena, a holiday for the slave-holders of the Eternal City! He left at least a home, wife, children.

I see before me the gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand; his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony.
... His eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away:
He reck'd not of the life he lost, nor prize,—
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay.
There were his young barbarians, all at play,—
There was their Dacian mother,—he, their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday!
All this rush'd with his blood: shall he expire,
And unavenged? Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!


I am fully aware that a fallacy will be alleged against this argument, —that a demurrer will be entered against each and every count in the general indictment. It will be said,—

1st. That through slavery and the slave-trade alone have any portion of the African race been introduced to the light and blessings of civilization. This is a mean and blasphemous subterfuge. Just as though any such idea ever mixed itself up with the thoughts of the slave-vampires of the African coast! Just as though the century-protracted efforts of the Saracens to overthrow the religion of Christ were worthy of praise because they brought Christendom to its feet, in the vindication of Christianity! As soon should the sight of the fair-haired Angli boys brought to Rome and sold as slaves, and thus become the occasion of the introduction of the gospel into Britain, have justified the kidnappers who did the nefarious work! As soon plead pardon for the traitor of all the ages for selling the Man of sorrows, because ‘when he bowed his head on the cross he dragged the pillars of Satan's kingdom to the dust.’

2d. They have risen far higher here in the scale of physical comfort. This I deny. They have not, as a community, enjoyed as much physical comfort as the wild beast in his lair, or the cattle on a thousand hills. By no means has their animal condition approached that of the native African tribes.

I fully believe—yea, I certainly know, and I believe and know it more profoundly than any slaughterer of men—that the wrath of man shall be made to praise God, while the remainder thereof he will restrain. But let no man, who has ever been a willing party to the awful crime we are speaking of, come forward now, while daylight is breaking over Africa, and claim any participation in the glory which is coming. For this dawn such men never longed; they never contemplated that rising sun with any exultation.

And yet how nobly has Africa earned the boon of civilized life! She has from the earliest ages been the slave of the nations. All men who had ships went to her coasts and sailed up her great rivers to steal her children. The Egyptians lashed them to their toil, in the valley of the Nile. The Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and the Arabs stole them from the Mediterranean coast. The Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the English, kidnapped them by the hundred thousand on the coast of the Atlantic; and, last of all,—as late as within the memory of men now living,—the African slave-trade constituted the most profitable branch of the commerce of New England. [482]

The blessed light of civilization which had irradiated every other continent never illuminated Africa. Great empires had been founded on tile African coasts,—the arts that exalt and embellish life had been carried and cultured there by the Pharaohs, the Alexanders, the Hannibals,—the Arab, the Saracen, the Moor, and the Briton; but it was not for the poor African. Light, which came to all others, came not to him. Every empire ever founded in Africa was cemented by the blood of her helpless people. But the day of her emancipation has come.

She has waited for it over three thousand years. God has accepted the sacrifice. The indications of Providence are too plain to be mistaken. No unknown portion of the globe has been so thoroughly explored during the present century. No nation has ever been so ready to receive Christianity and the arts of peace. No one can more readily be brought into the family of nations. No country ever had so many missionaries ready to carry to a benighted continent commerce, agriculture, manufactures, education, and the light of everlasting truths.

All hail, then, Niobe of the nations!

‘Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling; . . . thou shalt no more drink it again.’

‘Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.’

‘Ye shall be redeemed without money.’

‘Thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband, . . . and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel.’

‘O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. . . . Thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.’

‘For I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.’ [483]

Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

I the Lord have spoken it.2


Feeling very deeply the duty of the Republic to its fallen soldiers, after consultation with Mr. Sumner, and many of our leading public men in Washington, I prepared the following, which was effectively used in the movement soon started, and pushed with such great vigor that it ended in the establishment of the National Cemeteries, which have reflected so much honor upon the country:

The duty of the Republic to its fallen heroes.

Coelumque aspicit et dulcis moriens reminiscitur Argos.


Such honors Ilion to her hero paid,
And peaceful slept the mighty Hector's shade.
Here let me grow to earth! since Hector lies
On the bare beach deprived of obsequies.
Oh, give me Hector! to my eyes restore
His corse, and take the gifts! I ask no more.
The best, the bravest of my sons are slain.
For him through hostile camps I bend my way.
Lo! to thy prayer restored, thy breathless son.
Steeped in their blood, and in the dust outspread,
Nine days neglected, lay exposed the dead.


The first duty of a Government is to protect the life of the soldier; the second is to give him honorable burial when he has fought his last battle. This duty has been recognized by all nations, and it has been [484] considered imperative. No nation so barbarous as to neglect the ashes of its patriots,—no family so divested of social affection as not to desire to recover the earthly relics of one of their number who died away from home.

That mysterious chain which binds the heart of the survivor to the dust of the departed is now binding the hearts of an innumerable company of our people to the graves of our fallen soldiers. To recover the ashes of the loved one is the first thought that occurs; and the uncertainty of the spot where the body is reposing intensifies the grief. Promiscuous burial the human soul abhors.

This feeling is natural, and it cannot be repressed. Virgil has beaufully expressed it in the line we have quoted above. With his back to the earth and his eyes on heaven, the dying soldier thinks of his beloved home. It is generally among the very last wishes of those dying among strangers, that they could die at home.

Our fancies will visit the red fields of valor which have been sanctified by the baptism of patriotic blood; they will haunt the halls of our hospitals, filled with the suffering, and steal into the countless chambers of the bereaved, where Rachels are ‘weeping for their children, and will not be comforted, because they are not.’

The duties of Governments to their fallen soldiers apply with peculiar force to the soldiers and families of republics. Our grand army of a million men is a fair, full, and honorable representation of the great body of the people. There are whole regiments and brigades where there is not a man who did not leave home and kindred for the war,— kindred who watch with tenderness and apprehension the news of every battle, and whose affection spreads its drooping wings over the camp where the soldier sleeps. How many of our rank and file would not have Christian burial if they died at home, and some plain stone, at least, in memoriam, placed to mark the last couch of the sleeper? How many of our army, fallen already, have not left friends who would part with some treasure to recover the bodies of those they loved, or at least to know the spot of sepulture?

Hundreds of instances—yes, thousands—are known of attempts, often fruitless, to find, identify, mark, the spot, or make inquiries about [485] the graves. The Western battle-fields alone have grouped a million stricken hearts around those suddenly-created sepulchres of the brave. Our officers and soldiers put forth their last heroic exertions, in every skirmish and in every fight, to bring off our dead, or bury them on the field, preserving their identity as far as the horrible exigencies of war will allow.

But this was not enough; and the Sanitary Commission early undertook to obtain information by which ‘the place of burial of the volunteers who have been killed in battle, or who have died in hospitals, may be established. They have also elaborated a system of records for those dying in hospitals, and of indications of their burial-place, by which their bodies may be identified; which has received approval, and been ordered to be carried out, blanks and tablets for the purpose being furnished to each regimental quartermaster.’

This plan was warmly embraced by Congress and the Soldiers' Relief Associations, and it was in the main adopted, and has been carried out as far as it seemed possible.

One thing more was needed. Besides having cemeteries, larger or smaller, wherever our soldiers have fallen, we should have a great national cemetery for soldiers near Washington, where all our brave men who fall in the service in this neighborhood, or who can be brought here, may have honorable graves. Each State shall have a space allotted for its own citizens; and this City of the Dead should be embellished by emblems of art and beauty, which exalt and refine civilized life. The cost of this war for one hundred minutes would munificently accomplish this.

1 After the Proclamation of Emancipation I addressed the following Letter of Counsel to colored men, which met the warm approval of Mr. Lincoln and Senator Sumner. It may not be wholly inappropriate now.

Kind words to Africano-Americans.

Washington, Jan. 1st, 1863.
fellow-men:—The day you have waited for so long has at last come.

You are all free now,--or you soon will be. Your charter has been duly signed by the President of the United States, and that deed is ratified in heaven.

God is always on the right side: he is the everlasting friend of freedom.

Being free, your earthly salvation is put into your own hands. While you had a master, he gave you bread, clothing, and shelter—such as they were. In escaping the lash, you must provide these things for yourselves. You have always claimed you could do it, and your friends believe you can. What is still better, you have through generations proved you could not only support yourselves, but your masters too.

Now, laying all theories aside, and coming down to practical business, think what questions are before you. But first let me tell you what is not before you.

1. You need not give yourselves any trouble about the great question of your freedom. It is a moral fact. It will be an actual material fact sooner by far than you can prepare for it. Remember that when the song of freedom is once sung its notes will vibrate forever. Slavery is mortal, and must die; Liberty is eternal.

2. Give yourselves no solicitude about the prejudice against your color; for that prejudice does not exist in pure and generous hearts in such a form or to such an extent as materially to interfere with your prosperity and future elevation. Let your minds rather be directed to the means you should employ for accomplishing the destiny which is now within your reach.

First. Get work as soon as you can,—anything that is honorable,—and begin to lay up money.—If you are idle, you will be despised as vagabonds; if you contract bad habits, you will have no friends; if you commit crime, you will be punished without mercy. In no community whatever can you expect to escape punishment when you do wrong. The color of the white man may save him, no matter how black his crime or loathsome his bestiality. But if you once put that bitter cup to your lips you will have to drain it to the last dregs. Here your friends cannot save you. You must beware in time, and escape the danger.

The law was made for you as well as for white men, and in your case it will be sternly enforced. Few voices will be heard pleading in your behalf, on the ground that you have been a slave. On the contrary, you will find—what does not often happen—that all the bad as well as the good will be arrayed against you. If you do not keep a sharp look-out, you will find that freedom, although a holy, is often a dangerous gift. A great poet says, ‘Lord of himself,—that heritage of woe.’

Second: get knowledge—Other things being equal, your progress and elevation will depend entirely upon the amount of your intelligence. Ignorance is one of the principal curses of slavery. In Heaven's name, rid yourselves of it as quickly as possible.

first of all, learn to read, and teach your wives and children. Do it nights and Sundays, if you can find no other time. And when this is done you will, indeed, find yourselves in a new world. You don't know how much good it would do you all. Ignorance cannot help you or anybody else. Ignorance is dark; knowledge is light. Do not think you have done much till you can read that glorious book which our Father sent down to us from heaven. It is his voice. It speaks to you. You must learn to read it. But, whatever you may neglect for yourselves, don't, oh, don't let your children grow up in ignorance; for they would still be under the curse of slavery. Get as near to the school-house and a Sunday-school as you can. There will hereafter be no law in the South punishing anybody that teaches you to read. All good people will help you, and you will find it not only very easy, after a little while, but very delightful. Then, and then only, will you know what freedom is worth.

You must forget and forgive all the wrongs you have suffered. ‘If you forgive not, neither shall you be forgiven.’ This is God's rule; and you must obey it if you would have his blessing. I know how hard it will sometimes come to forgive those who have sold your wives and children and heaped on your heads wrong upon wrong. But you must do it. Christ did it to his murderers. ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.’

All your friends are proud to hear that you have behaved so well wherever you have been instantly set free. The foes of emancipation predicted that you would be guilty of every crime. But of the tens of thousands who have suddenly passed into freedom, no record of crime yet appears against you. We can now point to your example, and justify ourselves for all the confidence we have had in you.

So too are we happy and grateful to learn that the three millions and a half of your race who still clank the chain are meekly and patiently waiting for the day of their liberation. God grant that they may wait patiently still! While he is doing the work, do not stand in His way. Show to the world that you were worthy to be free. The more you prove this, the quicker the fetters will fall. Let it be God's act. He will hasten it in his time.

From the beginning of the war till now, you have been compelled to look on, idle spectators of this great struggle; and you know the reason why. The war was not begun by the North, nor was it carried on by the North for the sake of destroying slavery. It was begun by the slave-holders to destroy the Union, extend slavery, and open the slave-trade. The North went into it to preserve the Union; and when we found that slavery would destroy the republic unless slavery should be wiped out itself, then Mr. Lincoln declared freedom to all the slaves of all the enemies of the Union.

Now it has come to this, that this great war is between slavery and freedom. It has become a war for you. Now you can come into the fight, and take the field, and help work out your own salvation. And you must do it; for remember that ‘he who would be free, himself must strike the blow.’ If you will not help yourselves, whom are you to look to?

Yes, you must not hang back. Enlist in the army the first chance you get. If you are not as ready and willing to spill your blood for your own freedom as white men are to do it for you, then you will prove, what your masters have always said, that you are not fit nor worthy to be free. You are not asked to take a life, or use or destroy any property, except as soldiers, under the command of your officers. In all this you are doing but your duty as men and citizens of a great and glorious country.

You will not forget that mankind respect nothing so much as valor. To fight gallantly in a good cause will win for you and your race more honor and respect than you can win in any other way. By showing that you are good soldiers, you will do more towards your own progress and elevation than all your friends could do for you in a century.

In this way, and in this way only, can you repay the debt of gratitude which you owe to your deliverers. Every brave deed you do, the higher your fidelity to your flag, the more complete your subordination and discipline, the higher you and your race will stand, not only with your commanders and with the whole country, but with all nations.

Never before have Africans had such a chance! In the name, then, of your nearly five millions in the United States, of more than half as many in South America and the West India Islands, and of the uncounted millions on the great continent of Africa, we call on you to shoulder the musket! and let your valor and martial achievements work the long-delayed redemption of a mighty people.

Another consideration, which is likely to be of grave magnitude hereafter, should not be left out of sight now. It is Emigration,—not colonization merely. It has been a Sisyphus work for us to try to found colonies in Africa while we held millions of slaves at home, and offered no inducement to emigrate except either to be made free at the price of expatriation, or to receive the poor boon of escaping the lighting influence of prejudice against color, at the cost of a life-long exile among barbarians of a darker skin, and no knowledge of civilization or the living God.

Few of your race went to Africa on these hard terms; and I am glad of it.

I might now—March 28th, 1874, when we have the sad news of Dr. Livingstone's death in the heart of Africa—press this consideration with earnestness: for it is my full conviction that the civilization of Africa—which is so sure to come—will be effected chiefly through the agency of the emancipated Africano-American Race.


And we may see in all this that law of compensation which God vouchsafes the wronged and suffering for all their woes and suffering. After being afflicted by nigh three centuries of servitude, God calls chosen men of this race from all the lands of their thraldom, men laden with gifts,—intelligence and piety,—to the grand and noble mission which they only can fulfil,—even to plant colonies, establish churches, found missions, and lay the foundations of universities along the shores and beside the banks of the great rivers of Africa, so that the grandeur and dignity of their duties may neutralize all the long, sad memories of their servitude and sorrows. Crummel's Future of Africa, p. 127.

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