Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/861

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841
CORRESPONDENCE.

CORRESPONDENCE.
 

THE AFRICAN IN THE UNITED STATES.

Messrs. Editors.

HAVING read with much interest Professor Gilliam's article on "The African in the United States," and agreeing with his general conclusion that "they must forever remain an alien race among us," it seems to me that there still remains something to be said, and that now is the time to say it, and this must be my excuse for this appeal to your courtesy.

The obstructive Chinese legislation was received at first, by most thinking men in the country, not in direct contact with the question, with aversion, and a regret at a departure from one of the first principles of our Government, viz., the equality of man. But most of us are now satisfied that while this American life is a furnace which melts into good Americans the peculiarities of all white races, the attempt to assimilate a race of different color, and of a civilization older than ours, and one that has resisted conquest, oppression, and time, would certainly have resulted in failure, and that a majority of citizens of Chinese birth or descent, on the Pacific slope, would have made of that section practically a foreign land.

That the case of the negro, as stated by Professor Gilliam, is hardly as bad, is evident. The negro is not the heir of an ancient and scientific social order. What knowledge he has of social order and political forms is American, and, however much he may develop, his development will still follow these lines, and there will hardly be a race war of virulence enough to attract the attention of the country as a whole. At the same time it is very certain that the fact of color will forever keep the two races separate, and that as the negroes realize the voting strength of mere numbers there will be a tendency among them to gather in certain sections of the country in overwhelming power, and by the perfectly legal means of the jury system and the ballot drive the whites, not only from office, but from among them. The process will be slow and gradual, and there will be probably neither occasion nor opportunity for the interference of the Federal power. But the concentration of an alien and unassimilable race in any section of the country, especially in a section of so much strategic importance as the mouth of the great river that is the future door to our house—however much their civilization may be an outgrowth of our own—is certainly a political arrangement to be avoided if possible. And how is it to be avoided? Professor Gilliam gives us no hint except the vague regret that the San Domingo purchase was lost to us. The history of the centuries is before us. The long education of the African is complete. The dark continent is opened. The slave has received his freedom. The generation that intervened between the slave and the conquering freeman of old has nearly passed with our bondmen of to-day. All things indicate that the time has come when steps must be taken toward the solution of the problem of the colored race among us, or we must pay in the future, as in the past, for our neglect or mistakes in dealing with this matter, with losses and suffering, perhaps again with blood.

A bill passing Congress establishing a steam mail line to Liberia from some Southern port—Charleston, or preferably New Orleans—with a subsidy for mail-carriage, sufficient to insure its being kept up, however great the expense, would have reasons in its favor worthy of the following considerations:

Our merchant marine is destroyed, and must for national and economic reasons be rebuilt, and, in spite of our present prejudice against subsidies, capital must at first be attracted to this field by national bounties. This is the way England's supremacy was organized, and is kept up. It is the way France and Germany are increasing their fleets, and there is no other way. Trade and travel follow regular steamship lines. This needs no demonstration. England's successful efforts in this direction keeps her today the workshop of the world. The wealth of Africa is at this moment the cynosure of industrial nations. England, France, and Belgium, by arts of peace or war, are pressing forward to take possession of its coast. It is only a question of time before, on some petty pretext, Liberia will be attacked and pass into England's possession, unless we cultivate closer relations. It is a country capable of great development. It is already progressing, and its governmental forms and traditions are American. The establishment of a steamship line to Liberia would produce the following results: The formation of a stable government in Africa, sprung from and modeled after our own. A nation that would assimilate and develop the native tribes instead of destroying them; a nation that would have our customs, our energy, and our tools, know and buy our wares, would, by the railroad-building arts they take from us, conquer and control the