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Hampton Negro Conference. Number III. July 1899.

1899VA-State-Hampton_Proceedings (50).pdf

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49

see in this problem only a conflict of races in the South, see but a little was into its depths. For underlying this conflict of races is a conflict of opposing ideas and interests, which have for a century vexed the peace of the nation. The existence of a system of labor in the South distinct from that of the North, separated the two halves of the Union industrially, as far as the East is from the West, and made of them in truth two hostile nations, although united under one general government. This difference has been the cause of all the division and strife between the sections and it will continue to operate as such until completely abolished.

The clinging of the South, under the circumstances, to its old social ideas and system, or to such fragments of them as now remain, and its persistent attempts to put these broken parts together, and to preserve thereby what so disastrously distinguishes it from the rest of the country, is an economic error of the first magnitude, an error which injuriously affects its own industrial property and greatness by retarding its material development and by infecting at the same time with increasing unrest and discontent, its faithful and peaceful black labor. The fight which the South is making along this line is a fight not half so much against the Negro, as against its own highest good. For it has in this matter opposed itself ignorantly to the great laws which control the economic world, to the great laws which are the soul of modern industrialism, laws which govern production, exchange, consumption, competition, supply and demand, which determine everywhere, between rival parts of the same country, and between rival nations as well, that commercial struggles, industrial rivalries, shall always terminate in the survival of the fittest. If in such a battle the South sows seeds of economic weakness, when it ought to sow seeds of economic strength, it will go down before its rivals whether those rivals be in this country, or in any other country or part of the world. In such a struggle, if it would win, it will need to avail itself of all the means which God and nature has placed at its disposition.

One of the most important of these means, perhaps the most important single factor in the development and prosperity of the South, is its negro labor. It is more to it, if viewed aright, than all its gold, iron, and coal mines put together. If properly treated and trained, it will means fabulous wealth and greatness to that section. Lest you say that I exaggerate, I will quote the estimate put upon this labor by the Washington Post, which will hardly be accused of enthusiasm touching any matter relating to the Negro, I think. Here it is:

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