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Hampton Negro Conference. Number III. July 1899.

1899VA-State-Hampton_Proceedings (51).pdf

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50

"We hold as between the ignorant of the two races, the Negroes are preferable. The are conservative, they are good citizens, they take no stock in social schisms and vagaries; they do not consort with anarchists; they cannot be made the tools and agents of incendiaries; they constitute the solid, worthy, estimable yeomanry of the South. Their influence in government would be infinitely more wholesome than the influence of the white sansculottes, the riff-raff, the idler, the rowdies, and the outlaws. As between the Negro, no matter now illiterate he may be, and the poor white, the property holders of the South, prefer the former."

The South cannot, economically, eat its cake and have it too. It cannot adopt a policy and code of laws to degrade its labor, to hedge it about with unequal restrictions and proscriptive legislation, and raise it at the same time to the highest state of productive efficiency. But it must as an economic necessity raise this labor to the highest point of efficiency or suffer inevitable industrial feebleness and inferiority. What are the things which have made free labor at the North the most productive labor in the world, and of untold value to that section? That but its intelligence, skill, self-reliance, and power of initiative? And how have these qualities been put into it? I answer unhesitatingly, by those twin systems of universal education and universal suffrage. One system trains the children, the other the adult population. The same wise diffusion of knowledge, and large and equal freedom and participation in affairs of government which have done so much for northern labor, will not, be assured, do less for southern labor.

For weal or woe, the Negro is in the South to stay. He will never leave it voluntarily, and forcible deportation of him is impracticable. And for economic reasons, vital to that section, he must not be oppressed or repressed. All attempts to push and tie him down to the dead level of an inferior caste, to restrict his activities arbitrarily and permanently to hewing wood and drawing water for the white race, without regard to his possibilities for higher things is in this age a strenuous industrial competition and struggle; an economic blunder, pure and simple, to say nothing of the immorality of such action. Like water, let the Negro find his natural level, if the South would get the best and most out of him. If nature has designed him to serve the white race forever, never fear. He will not be able to elude nature; he will not escape his destiny. But he must be allowed to act freely. Nature needs not our aide here. Depend upon it, she will make

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