Page:Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892).djvu/473

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465
IT OPENS THE SCHOOL HOUSE.

friends—embracing its foes, and spurning its allies,—setting a premium on treason, and degrading loyalty. As to the second point, viz.: the negro's ignorance and degradation, there was no disputing either. It was the nature of slavery, from whose depths he had arisen, to make him so, and it would have kept him so. It was the policy of the system to keep him both ignorant and degraded, the better and more safely to defraud him of his hard earnings. This argument never staggered me. The ballot in the hands of the negro was necessary to open the door of the school-house and to unlock to him the treasures of its knowledge. Granting all that was said of his ignorance, I used to say, "if the negro knows enough to fight for his country he knows enough to vote; if he knows enough to pay taxes for the support of the government, he knows enough to vote; if he knows as much when sober, as an Irishman knows when drunk, he knows enough to vote."

And now while I am not blind to the evils which have thus far attended the enfranchisement of the colored people, I hold that the evils from which we escaped, and the good we have derived from that act, amply vindicate its wisdom. The evils it brought are in their nature temporary, and the good is permanent. The one is comparatively small, the other absolutely great. The young child has staggered on his little legs, and he has sometimes fallen and hurt his head in the fall, but then he has learned to walk. The boy in the water came near drowning, but then he has learned to swim. Great changes in the relations of mankind can never come, without evils analogous to those which have attended the emancipation and enfranchisement of the colored people of the United States. I am less amazed at these evils, than by the rapidity with which they are subsiding, and not more astonished at the facility with which the former slave has