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Chapter 34: the three races.

Such conflicts are the curse of Texas; yet one sees no end of them till the country has been settled, the roads have become safe, and the courts have been purged of party spirit. The White settlers are gaining ground, but they are still too near the Indian lodges for security, and too near the day of Negro rule for peace and confidence.

“Our blood is hot,” says an English settler, who tells me he has learned to like the country very much, “ but we are mending day by day, especially in the towns. We drink less liquor, and invoke more. law. Remove the whisky-shops, and we shall show as few white crimes of violence in Texas as they show in Georgia and South Carolina. Whisky is cheap and every one drinks hard. Such crimes as stain our name, apart from drunken rows, are the results of fear, and have their source in our [337] unsettled state. We are not strong enough to overlook offences. Why do we carry arms? From fear of an attack. Why do we fire so readily? In order to forestall a blow. When people feel secure, they cease to shoot each other in the street.”

“ But in the country — in the cattle-runs, and on the cotton plantations?”

“ In the cattle-runs we are rather wild; knowing hardly any ministers of justice save the hatchet and revolver. But remember where the cattle-runs lie: within an easy ride of Kickapoo tents. The cotton-yards are better than the cattle-runs; the Negro being less brutal, if more vicious, than the Kickapoo. I cannot say that in Texas a fellow thinks it wrong to kill his creditor, his wife's seducer, and his tipsy comrade.”

It will be long ere Austin and Indianola are as tame as Norwich and Yarmouth, but the Anglo-Saxon blood is there, with all its staying power. A few English ladies would assist the progress of refining much. A lady never feels her sceptre till she finds herself the empress of some frontier State.

At Dallas, a gentleman from Missouri is good [338] enough to offer me a fine estate, if I will only take it off his hands. “My land,” he says, with a sad humour, “ lies on the upper reaches of the Brazos, in a lovely country and a healthy climate. There are woods and pastures, water rights and fisheries. It is not so large a place as Kent, yet a swift rider would hardly cross it in a day.”

This fine demesne is the owner's big elephant: a source of cost and trouble which destroys his life. He has to pay the public tax on land. He has to hire men to guard his timber. Yet the place has never yet yielded him a cent. “The ruin of the war,” he says, “added to the raids of Kiowas and Kickapoos, prevents the march of settlers towards the upper Brazos. But for the Negroes and Indians, Brazos would be a paradise. When these two plagues are gone, all parts of Texas will be as free from marauders as the neighbourhood of Dallas.”

My friend has reason to believe that Kiowas and Kickapoos hunt game in his preserves, that Mestizo herdsmen crop his grass, that White foresters cut and sell his wood. Yet how is he to charge them rent? His title to the land is perfect; but once, on going to see his place, he tells me, he received a notice to [339] return the way he came, unless he wished to see strange sights. This message broolied no fencing; and he rode away that night, leaving his protest with some district judge. An agent whom he afterwards sent out was shot.

“It is a good thing,” says my friend, “ to have a fine cattle-run, but a man who owns a good cattlerun on the upper Brazos, ought to live out West, and keep things square.”

“What do you think of us now?” asks a citizen of Galveston county.

“You seem to have a big estate-wood, water, grass.”

“ Grass is a cuss. You see these fields near the creek: they're under cotton. Cotton is king. You think we might have meat and milk? We might; but then who cares to throw away his chance? No man ever got rich on meat and milk. Dollars are what we want; dollars from St. Louis and Chicago; dollars from Boston and New York; and neither St. Louis nor Chicago, Boston nor New York would send us a coin if we began killing our own calf and milking our own cow. If we had no need for Eastern dollars, we'd divide.” [340]

“Divide? You mean that you would break the Union?”

“Yes; most Texans hereabouts are ready to divide. The case of New Orleans warns us. Having lately passed through fire, we feel the anguish of Louisiana in our hearts. Look at our case, and tell me the sort of justice we are likely to obtain from the republicans of Boston and New York.”

In Texas the brief period of Negro supremacy was a bitter trial for the Whites, some of whom saw their former menials sitting over them as judges, legislators, and tax collectors. Many of these Negro judges, legislators and tax-collectors could barely read their letters and sign their names. Confusion then seemed chaos. Crime increased, income decreased. Rates were raised, till property was taxed beyond the power to pay. Houses fell empty. Land became a burthen and a curse.

Instead of keeping within the law these ignorant rulers trampled justice under foot. Under the lead of carpet-baggers — a low class of adventurers from the North-and covered by the presence of Federal troops, they seized the ballot-boxes and drove Wlhite [341] voters from the polling-booths. A White citizen could hardly cast his vote. Unless some friendly Negro led him up and vouched for him as a scalawag, he could hardly reach his balloting-urn. The Blacks were mostly armed, the Whites were all disarmed. In every village row White blood was shed.

“Thank God those shameful days are gone for ever,” says a planter of more moderate vein. “The Black ;yranny and the Black legislature have vanished, lever again to blight our cities with a curse.”

“Gone without violence?”

“Yes, by natural causes; gone as all bad things should go: by means of natural law. Europe has saved us from the curse of Negro rule.”

It is the immigration, chiefly flowing in from Liverpool to Galveston and Indianola, that has restored the balance of White power in Texas. Except the runaways from Red River, few Negroes have entered Texas; while, since the war, more than a hundred thousand Whites have come in from English ports. Untainted by secession, these settlers get their votes the moment they apply, and they have nearly always cast them on the Conservative side. Race counts. A clown just landed from an English deck [342] will take his part, without a word being said to him, in favour of his White brother against the Negro and the Kickapoo. A White League starts up in opposition to a Red League on one side, to a Black League on the other side. Ku Klux is but a White counter part of the Cherokee Light Horse.

Last year, by help of these in-comers from Europe, the White Leaguers of Texas beat the army of Black Leaguers and their partisans at the pollingbooths, carrying all their candidates for the Executive-Coke for Governor, De Berry for Secretary of State, Roberts for Chief Justice. Six Conservatives are going to represent the State in Washington. The scalawags are routed, and the White citizens have recovered the full control of their affairs.

In riding towards the South we overtake a party of the new legislators on their way to Austin, where the Chambers are about to meet. They are attorneys, planters, doctors, and the like; a natural aristocracy in a frontier State; a jovial set of fellows, with a spice of rough old English humour in their talk.

“ When you get to Austin as masters what will you do?” [343]

“Do?” laughs one of them. “ We mean to have a good time. We shall revise the new Scalawag Constitution, and give the poor down-trodden Whites a chance.”

“And then?”

“Guess then,” he laughs still more, “ we'll fill our trunks. What should we go to Austin for? You see these gentlemen. Every man among the lot has an empty box in the luggage van. Hish! When we come back these boxes will be full. Why else is Coke made Governor, De Berry Secretary of State? Have not we as much right to rob the Treasury as those scalawags? On my return from Austin, I bet you'll not be able to lift this trunk!”

We laugh and tell some jest about our way of doing things in London when one party is going out and the other party coming in. A fellow with the manner of a ranting preacher creeps behind and whispers in my ear, “ You smile, Sir; by the eternal heavens it's true.”

“ Do you expect to have any more Black trouble in Texas?”

“None,” snaps one of the members, merrily; “ no more Black trouble, except what springs from the [344] Black women. These women are a curse. Squaws are bad enough, heaven knows, but Negresses are ten times worse. We frontier folk aren't angels, but these coloured women have no souls at all. Five Negresses in six will go any lengths to get a drink.”

At Houston we notice that the hotel servants are White; a thing we have not seen, except in one house at San Francisco, since we left New York. Here the advertisements run: “ all the servants White and polite.” A Negro with a vote is always lazy and often saucy, and this laziness and sauciness are threatening to deprive him of his daily bread. Pat and Karl fetch higher wages than Sam, but managers of big hotels must please their customers, even though they drive the Negro from a market which was once his own.

A gentleman of good position and large experience says to me in Galveston:

“ In Texas there never was a majority of coloured people. When our slaves were feed, we counted more than two fair heads for every woolly head. Living in a republic, with the weight of numbers on our side, we had a right to choose our rulers, magistrates, and tax assessors. If our brethren at [345] the North were minded to deny our wealth, intelligence, and enterprise, they could not rob us of our majority of votes, except through treason to the first principle of a Republic. Such was their case and ours. Forget our common origin-our blood, our history, our literature, our civilised life-things which we hold in common from our English ancestry; and in the absence of all ties of memory and affection, we demand, as members of a free society, the right of settling things by a majority of voices.”

“Such a claim is hardly to be denied in a Republic.”

“ Yet that claim was set aside by President Grant. For what? Because he hankered after a second term, and needed Southern votes. A gang of dollar-hunters swarmed into Texas, not to settle in the country, but to eat it up; fellows having no stake in the soil, no knowledge of the people, no concern with planting towns, no interest in promoting order. Backed by Federal officers, they organized Black clubs, and convened private meetings of scalawags. Seizing our electoral lists, they put in names and struck out names, according to their [346] secret orders, till the Negroes had majorities of votes in hamlets where the coloured people were not more than two in five. We chafed, you may be sure, and have no wish to see that game played over again at our expense. If we divide, we may have peace; if not, who knows where we shall stand? These Negroes want to rule and reign once more. Do you suppose that men of English blood will stand that sort of thing? We Texans were the last to cave in; we'll be the first to head out. You bet? If Phil Sheridan comes to Austin — we'll divide.”

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