Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/189

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177
THE NEGRO QUESTION.
THE NEGRO QUESTION.
By J. L. M. CURRY, LL. D.,
GENERAL AGENT OF THE PEABODY EDUCATION FUND AND OF THE JOHN F. SLATER EDUCATION FUND; LATE MINISTER TO SPAIN.

THE negro question is not of recent origin. The Iliad of our woes began in 1620, when negroes were first brought to the colony of Virginia and sold as slaves. Slavery antedates history. The traffic of Europeans in negroes existed a half century before the discovery of America. The very year in which Charles V sailed with a powerful expedition against Tunis to check the piracies of the Barbary states, and to emancipate enslaved Christians in Africa, he gave an open legal sanction to the African slave trade. When independence was declared in 1776 all the colonies held slaves. Slavery, said the late Senator Ingalls, disappeared from the Northern States "by the operation of social, economic, and natural laws," and "the North did not finally determine to destroy this system until convinced that its continuance threatened not only their industrial independence but their political importance." In course of years "the peculiar institution" assumed a sectional character. The war between the States precipitated a crisis. President Lincoln began then the work of emancipation. "As commander-in-chief of the army and navy in time of war, I suppose I have the right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy. . . . I view the measure [the Proclamation] as a practical war measure according to the advantages or disadvantages it will offer to the suppression of the rebellion." Senator Ingalls's testimony is as follows: "It may be admitted that the emancipation of the slaves was not contemplated by any considerable portion of the American people when the war for the Union began, and it was not brought to pass until the fortunes of war became desperate, and was then justified and defended upon the plea of military necessity." The Southern States ratified the amendments to the Constitution under penalty of otherwise remaining out of the Union and in political and military vassalage. The abolition of slavery has the assent of all sane men. Apart from ethical considerations, the subjection of the will, thought, or labor of a mature human being to the whim, caprice, or legal right of another is a gross political and economical blunder, unwise and indefensible. After emancipation came citizenship and enfranchisement of the freedmen, and the punitive measures of reconstruction, which were the outcome of hatred, revenge, desire for party ascendency, and which no good man can now approve. No conquering nation ever inflicted on a conquered people more cruel injustice than the disfranchisement of the most capable citizens and the enfranchise-