Popular Science Monthly/Volume 19/October 1881/Increase and Movement of the Colored Population II
By J. STAHL PATTERSON.
FOR the purpose of comparing the movement of the colored population before and since emancipation, we begin with the following table, which shows the percentage of colored increase in each of the slave States for the last decade of slavery:
It will be observed that South Carolina and the border States added very little to their colored population during this decade. This was largely due to emigration, no doubt; and in most of these States this took opposite directions, part of it going southward by compulsion, and part of it northward by choice. Canada in a small way, and the new and great planting States of the South mainly, received the benefit of these tendencies of the colored movement.
The following table gives the colored increase of the same States for the decade from 1860 to 1870, embracing the last three years of slavery and the first seven of freedom:
The drift is mainly toward the two new States, Texas and Florida. A great change has come over the District of Columbia. From standing near the foot of the list in the previous table, it is now at the head. The freedmen found protection and encouragement, with a large demand for such labor as they are qualified to do, and hence they flocked to the District. The border States are worse off than during the previous decade, owing, no doubt, to the war and to the proximity of the old free States, in which the freedmen found more sympathy than among their former neighbors.
The following table shows the colored increase of the principal Northern States for the same decade, and shows what has become of a part of the freedmen:
The aggregate increase in these twelve States was from 217,092 to 327,882, or 51*0 per cent., being 41 per cent, more than the average increase of all the colored in the United States for the same period. Only one State (New York) fell below this average.
The following table shows the increase of the colored population in the former slave States for the last decade, 1870 to 1880:
Usually, as population becomes more dense, its percentage of gain becomes less; but in the two Southern States, Mississippi and South Carolina, in which the colored population is densest and most largely outnumbering the white, the ratio of increase is among the greatest. Not even the principle of density, nor the terrors of the "Mississippi plan," appear to have exerted the least check upon the multiplication of the colored people in those States. They probably received some accessions from immigration, especially Mississippi, as Texas and Arkansas certainly did. The table indicates readily what States probably lost by emigration. The showing for South Carolina has been anomalous for the last three censuses, it having, like the border States, gained little during the seventh and eighth decades, but having gained enormously during the ninth, as shown by the last census, and yet in no State is the correctness of this census better assured than in South Carolina. If there be error it is in the previous census. The ratio of increase in seven of these States rises above the average for the colored population of the United States; North Carolina has the same ratio, while the others fall below it.
The following table gives the colored increase in twelve Northern States for the last decade:
During the decade the colored population in these twelve States increased from 327,882 to 458,185, being 39·9 per cent., a little above the ratio of increase for the entire colored population of the United States; but this was gained wholly in the first four States of the list, the percentage of gain in the remaining eight being about equal to the average gain of the white population in those States. The last two tables appear to indicate that the movement of the colored population is not great, but mainly toward the Southwestern States. And while only four of the Western States, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, have received considerable accessions, the percentage of their gain being high, the aggregate number of immigrants northward is comparatively small. The last five States of the list seem to have lost a small portion of their colored population by emigration.
What is the law of colored migration? The colored man is actuated by the same motives in changing localities as any other man. Social attraction, sympathy, opportunity for paying employment, with facilities for reaching the new home—these determine the direction of his movement. Climate is, no doubt, a consideration which coöperates with others in determining the general result, a warm climate being congenial to temperament and favorable to ease of living. In the South, the drift is to the new lands and the rich planting-regions; in the North, it is mainly to the accessible States in which employment is to be had. The tables of population by counties show that the colored people are very thoroughly distributed over the country, thinning out toward the North. In the same latitude the proportion of the colored population bears a very uniform relation to the number of whites. In tables giving the white and colored population of Northern States by counties, the adjacent columns, representing the two classes, indicate simply on their face this uniformity of relation. There are many exceptions, of course, as where, for example, in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, there is a large proportion of Irish, the two races not harmonizing well together, since they are competitors for the same kinds of employment. There were 25 per cent, more colored in New York County in 1840 than in 1870; while in Hudson County, New Jersey, in which Jersey City is situated, there is far less than the usual proportion of the colored element. But the rule will hold in a general way, notwithstanding the exceptions by whatsoever caused.
It is not the habit of the colored people to look up a vacancy in some new State, and proceed to fill it with their own race. If they did they would have to be their own employers, and the prosperity of the community would be of their own making. On the contrary, they seem to find a place more congenial to their tastes and better adapted to their wants by the side of and among white people. Here they may get employment without making it for themselves. Instead, therefore, of dying out by the side of the white man under freedom, as has been supposed, they are really stronger to live there than they would be in a settlement of colored people alone. This is so necessarily where, as in the older States, capital is indispensable as the basis of employment. It would seem that, in the industrial aspects of the case, the white and colored man may be, under certain circumstances, the complement of each other.
What will be the direction of colored migration in the future? This will depend in part on the policy of States and of the General Government toward the colored people. Formerly it was a current speculation that the blacks would drift toward certain States in the South, which would pass under colored control in all respects, to the exclusion of the whites. This, however, is not likely to take place, except by interference of the General Government. If, under the pretext of a free ballot, the bayonet is resorted to by any party in power at Washington, and certain States in the South are again brought under the control of ignorant masses led by political adventurers, Southern society may be forced into a different form from that which now prevails. Under the continuance of such a policy, if it could be maintained, certain States might become exclusively colored, and society therein sink toward a form of semi-barbarism. The white would eventually be driven out by political corruption, maladministration, and State bankruptcy. And let no man be deceived: if the native whites are compelled to abandon certain Southern localities on account of uninstructed colored predominance in local administration, the Yankee, or any other who is studious of thrift, will not take their place. Only a few sharpers, and the vultures in search of political carrion, will be found there. But this alternative of the "negro problem" is not likely to be adopted. Hardly any party is ready to go into history with such a policy, for, if it tripped, as it might, it would be bad for such party. It is the teaching of all history that those who have had freedom of self-rule have proved themselves competent to take it and hold it in spite of despots. This self-assertion is a necessary condition of freedom and its maintenance. There is no such thing as freedom under exotic tutelage. If a people who are numerically in the majority can only be secured in their political rights by national troops, then do such people illustrate political serfdom in becoming the tools of the party in power, and freedom becomes an abortion by the method used to secure it.
The problem, then, is to be determined on the presumption that local self-government in the South shall be in the hands of those who are competent to direct it; and that existing forces, under which the South has multiplied so rapidly in population during the last ten years, shall continue to operate.
Many of the planting-districts in the South contain already quite as large a colored population as is compatible with interest and comfort. This is thoroughly felt, if not clearly seen, by the colored people. They become the most dissatisfied with the situation, not where they are distributed among the whites in smaller numbers, but in districts where the colored population is greatest. Why so? Not on account of political terrorism by any means, but on account of the bad footing up at the close of the working-season. These are-the places and this the reason which give rise to that recent phenomenon known as the "negro exodus." The tables indicate that there is emigration from most of the former border slave States. But the movement is individual, and not gregarious. It is undertaken with a rational view of what is to be gained by the change, much after the fashion of the whites, and it makes no noise in the newspapers as an "exodus." Among the simple-minded and impulsive masses farther South it is different. There it takes the form of a psychological epidemic, with only a vague and fanatical conception of what is ahead. We have only seen the beginning of this, perhaps, though the movement has its drawbacks. Not the most provident now leave the South; very generally, no doubt, the least so. Not the best hands come—often the worst. They have the old slave way, and the inaptitude for diversity of labor, with characteristic indifference to their employers' interest. They are not generally satisfactory help. If they stay North, they live from hand to mouth, and when they die the town has to bury them. A few return to the warmer climate of the South where wants are less m-gent and more easily supplied, and where the work to be done is simpler in form and better adapted to their habits. There is, therefore, a mild form of counter-exodus.
No doubt many portions even of the planting-regions in the older Southern States will admit of a still denser colored population. And while this continues to be the case no continuous heavy emigration is to be expected. But the filling-up process will go on, and, when there is crowding, relief will be had by emigration, if it is possible. The richest portions of the country South are breeding-lands, whence must flow increasing streams of colored migration, mainly to the westward, as the last census indicates. At any rate, they will flow in the direction of least resistance; and such are the forces which guide them, whether they flow westward or northward, that the people they bear become very thoroughly interdiffused among the whites. And while they are less thrifty than white people generally, all are not so. There are two distinct classes of colored economists. One is satisfied with dependence on others for employment; the other affects independent homes, and struggles to secure them, however humble. Some even acquire wealth. With wealth and independence will come greater respect. Gradually will the race-prejudice weaken. Now there are occasional marriages across the color-line; then they will be more frequent. This will accelerate the relative increase of the colored people, and the Caucasianizing of the colored race. Even now they are no longer negroes. One third has a large infusion of white blood, another third has less, but still some, and of the other third it would be difficult to find an assured specimen of pure African blood.
An English writer of distinction has found the solution of the American race question, in the blending of the white and colored elements, in the production of an improved type of man. We who are on the ground are generally skeptical as to the benefit thus to accrue; and it is not at all likely that amalgamation will ever be complete, under the reign of whatever physiological philosophy. Nature does not act in that thorough way; and philosophy does little to coerce Nature. Race prejudices and antipathies may abate, but they never wholly die out. Even after the plebeians and patricians might intermarry and the former be consuls, the patrician dames would relent none of their inherited scorn and antipathy for their plebeian rivals. Such prejudice is imbibed as unconsciously, but as surely, as nourishment from the mother's breast. It never ends. There will always be a colored race, of more uniform and lighter shade than at present, and always a white, even though branches of it perish in the fatal folds of luxury and dissipation. It will not end by amalgamation with the colored race, nor change by absorbing it. Intermixture of the white and colored is destined, probably, to play a greater rôle than it now does; and this new race—for new it is—may greatly enlarge its proportion of numbers on American soil, but it is not to be expected that it will transcend in moral and intellectual elevation. It is probable that this mixed race which is forming in our country has greater capabilities than it generally gets credit for. In some respects its moral and social qualities may be quite as desirable in a race of mankind as the corresponding qualities in white men; but in intellect, in fertility of resource, in that which furthers progress and renders society and civilization exalted and refined, it is not likely that any compound with a fraction of Caucasian blood in it, will be equal to the Caucasian himself. In intellect, which, with Draper, we must regard as the leading and highest faculty of mind, it is not likely that any mixture of African blood, with all the advantages of development it may have, will ever equal the historical Teuton. And there is less to be hoped from the colored race in this country, because its progenitors on the African side are a low type even of Africans, as one of the race candidly admits (Rev. Edward W. Blyden, "a negro," "Eraser's Magazine"). Education may do a great deal, especially the education of practical life in connection with the more gifted Teuton; but with this spread of the colored element, if it should still continue, while it may itself experience a considerable degree of elevation, there must come a lowering, through this agency, of the average psychological level, and this can not take place without affecting the general tone of society. And it will so affect society, not only because of the relative gain of numbers, if that should be, but, paradoxical as it may seem, by virtue, also, of a certain degree of improvement which is above the lowest, but does not reach the highest, whereby the colored element will obtain a power in society, which, with fewer numbers and greater moral subordination, it did not before have. Then, indeed, will there be need of a "strong government," or, perhaps, it should rather be said, then will it be easy to establish a strong government.