Popular Science Monthly/Volume 22/April 1883/Correspondence
THE AFRICAN IN THE UNITED STATES.
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 heart of Africa, and, above and beyond the trade considerations, would settle forever, in accordance with natural development, the question of race hatreds among us, by affording a career in a new and virgin field, to every turbulent, reckless, and energetic spirit among the colored Americans. These are the advantages. The cost is the direct mileage to steamers of one thousand tons or upward capacity, less the indirect advantage of trade. The profit of the freight and passenger traffic is probable during the second year. The time is now. But the fact remains that the Solons at Washington are more interested in the distribution of the offices than the future prosperity of the country, and that our republic is so strong that no safety-valve is needed until after the explosion.
I always enjoy and value your able journal, and feel in reading it that the actual facts are treated of without any fear or turning aside.
I must express particularly the degree of education I have received from the paper on railway consolidation as especially exemplified by the Union and Central Pacific roads.
I see now, what I had failed before to recognize, that only complete consolidation of all the routes to the Pacific is needed to perfect the contribution of all the railways can offer to rendering that coast Utopian in fact.
There were once impressions in the minds of ill-informed men that two gigantic and immensely subsidized corporations, the Pacific roads and Pacific Mail, had combined to wring all that was possible from the public that contributed so generously to give them existence.
Another fancy was, that rates were so much higher to points far this side of San Francisco, that shippers sent goods through and brought them back, at way-freight rates, to save money. It was even asserted that paying through rates would not secure the right of unloading en route.
Newspapers not inspired with integrity have even started the rumor that merchants who would not sign a bond committing themselves to sending all their freight by the Pacific roads were not given favorable rates. How sad that such things have been written and said; and how bitterly must men feel who read the last sentence of your exhaustive article, and are conscious that, before reading the decimals that so accurately measure the blessings of consolidation, they thought that roads untrammeled by legislation might become imbued with some selfish motive!
The odious term "monopoly" being treated with scientific accuracy becomes a charming expression, and, beyond question, the time will soon come when its perfection may be arrived at by the simple result of all transportation being consolidated in the hands of one man. Then it can be done at a minimum profit, from the fact that there will be but one family to maintain from the net earnings, and, of course, a railway-man is prone to all economy.
Very few feel called upon to pay their own fare, or the hauling of the cars in which they deny themselves the simple necessaries of life, sturdily confining themselves to the bare luxuries.
The tramps which the engines so often cast aside, mangled masses of flesh and old clothing, may have done more for practical progress than the railway "beat" who lords it at the stockholders' cost. Put this is no matter, if the magnate who hurls along over unguarded crossings, with no regard for life or limb, can only go sixty miles an hour, and arrange a consolidation in a few moments.
It is well that your magazine can so readily dispel "fundamental misconception" by the clear enunciation of "economic laws" as to remove all the old ideas, in twelve pages of comparative lines and decisive decimals.
So guarded, the public is safe, and the "politician and the press," other than the strictly scientific, are needless.
Grateful for information so serene and simple, I am, yours very truly,
THE COPYRIGHT DISCUSSION.
My object in writing the article which appeared in your March number, on "Piratical Publishers," was to provoke such a discussion of the subject of international copyright as its importance demands, and I am neither disappointed nor displeased with the rather severe editorial strictures which followed it. But, while I am quite willing to concede that some of your arguments have sufficient force to weaken, in a measure, those presented by me, I am firm in the conviction that most of my positions have been unsuccessfully assailed.
I write, however, now, to prevent misapprehension, by stating—what I ought to have said before putting my name to the article referred to—that I have no personal concern in the question under discussion, being no longer a republishes and having no interest, pecuniary or otherwise, in the publishing business. Also that I have—or, rather, the publishing house which has so long borne my name has—for more than thirty years past, paid a liberal sum to all the English publishers whose works it re-printed, and that the most cordial relations between the parties have always been maintained; so that my article was not written in vindication of my own conduct, but, as already stated, for the purpose of presenting such extreme views on one side of the question as should call forth the strongest points that could be presented on the other, and thus bring about the fullest possible discussion on the subject. I trust your criticism is an earnest of what is yet to follow from those who may have access to the pages of "The Popular Science Monthly."