« PreviousContinue »
was continued without the formality of resignation, the President's call to remain being an invitation to duty, the acceptance of which was commanded, not imperatively but inevitably.
The Governor of the Empire State, as President of the United States, has the evidence of his life's labors that he has pursued the right course to grasp the greater opportunities of usefulness; and his countrymen know, from his history, that he has not merely a very unusual and thorough preparation for his position, but,most admirable aspirations. His hand is firm, and his good works praise him. Far more than that, the Honorable Seth Low, the fame of whose administration as Mayor of Brooklyn in his early manhood, helped the example of Theodore Roosevelt, as he wrought in the Assembly of the State, the Police Commission, the Gubernatorial integrity, with a strong hand, so that Tammany, with all the blandishments of infamous power, is overwhelmed in a flood, magnificent and beneficent as ever rises and rolls cleansing waters to wash away fetid accumulations and sweeps aside the rottenness that has caused our municipal governments to be reviled. The master representative and organizer of evil in New York, finds his shield and club battered and broken, and retires with the remark that there is a "silent vote," and "the people sometimes want a change." Seth Low, in November, 1901, was elected Mayor of New York, and Theodore Roosevelt is President of the United States, with the confidence of the country. Each has before him a prodigy of problems.
THE QUESTION OF RACE.
It Is the Bequest of Slavery—Roosevelt a President without Prejudice—Phases of Racial Problem—The President's Oration on Frederick Douglass—Shall We Amend the Constitution?
THAT Theodore Roosevelt, twenty-fifth President of the United States, has no prejudices against the white people of the South is as certain as that his mother was a Southern woman, and sympathized with the South in the war that raged between the brethren of sister States when he was a child in her arms. He believes, as the enlightened world believes, though States revolted against the constitutionally elected and benign Lincoln, who never ceased to love his native State, Kentucky, and never for a day was as angry as be was grieved, that it was the passionate act of misguided men that cost his countrymen so much precious blood, and gave the race the glory that has gone so far around.
This generation of Americans, in all the States, believes that the Southern Confederacy was a gigantic mistake, redeemed only by the valor of the fighting men who gave the lost cause a military history so brilliant that the whole people may be proud of it, though the beginning was in political error; and it is the accepted belief of enlightened mankind, that the States of the South, after all, won when they lost; and would have been infinitely injured if their genius for war had given them the victory. They had the honor as soldiers, and the faith of brave men, to be at peace when they surrendered; and can claim a share of the serene glory of Appomattox, because when they gave up the fight, they did not persist in a horrible war of heedless desolation. They maintained the honor of arms, and no men know better or honor more the tone of chivalry that abides with that sense of honor and was displayed by the vanquished army Lee surrendered. It was, as was said by Lee when he gave up the fight, that the blood shed in a lost cause was murder; and his conviction that the cause was lost made peace. Lincoln and Grant accepted victory as peace with honor. Grant held fast when Lincoln was no more, to the spirit of the terms of capitulation.
In the days before the war it was often said, with Southern pride, that the people of the South were less unjust to the blacks than the people of the
North; and there were relations between the class of masters who were as kings to the subject race and those for whom they held themselves responsible, that softened at times the horrors of slavery itself. The slave question ran at us—the people of the United States—open mouthed as a political question, not exclusively or chiefly as a social relation, or even a racial issue. It was estimated that there was in the slave States a representation of persons held to service—a phrase equivalent in meaning to slavery—amounting to thirty members of the House of Representatives. That figure was given by a Mississippi member on the floor of the House, and probably it was too high. He said to a Northern member, "The negro has thirty representatives here. Let us see you put the nigger out of the House, sir." It was the voice of an ardent Mississippian.
The racial question is as great as the slave question, and not susceptible to the solution of the sword. Grant and Lee might meet in vain as leaders of armies or councilors, to abolish the problem of the African and European question we have in specially formidable form in North America. The European immigration was the legitimate movement of labor Westward, when the discovery of the New World did not reveal in the red man a supply of labor; and then came the call for black labor, and the demand was supplied by the African slave trade. Its victims in the course of the fearful commerce in men lured the sharks across the sea to inhabit the caves of the rocks at the mouth of the harbor of Havana.
Whatever may be the time taken, or the cost of the process of the policy that prevails, the history of man points straight to the necessity of doing justice between man and man on the broad terms of the Declaration of Independence. Our people do not like the Spanish way of mixing races. In Havana, at the public balls in the Tacon Theatre, the blacks and whites waltz together, without regard to color; white women with black men, and white men with black women, all smoking cigarettes, with often a long white asb that seems never to fall in the upturned faces of the dancers; but that is not conjecturable as a way of conclusion of the racial problem in our country. It is separated from our condition by a century or two, more or less, whichever road we take, and we are not traveling far on that subject. The race question is so portentous, those who know the most seem to have the least to say of it; and perhaps the part of wisdom is to ask for time, and do all that can be done, in human kindness, in the interest of peaceful evasions in forcing rugged issues of the problems that are insoluble. It is safe to say that we may remember the quality of mercy, and may hope to find on earth the statesmanship of Heaven.
President Roosevelt has done two things that have caused agitation in the South. The first worried a class of politicians that are the production of the solid partisan situation of the Southern South; and the second has troubled the sensitiveness of the Southern dominant race in the districts and States where the black people are in the majority. It is more than a problem—it is a puzzle—what shall be done when the majority of citizens of a sovereign State are of the disfranchised class? This is to be referred to committees of consultation.
President Roosevelt is the first man who has filled the great office, whose memory does not include personal knowledge of that which took place before Appomattox; who did not, in his mind at least, take part in "the irrepressible conflict" of which the statesman Seward spoke; or participate as a partizan in settling whether the country should be all slave or all free, instead of half slave and half free, to employ Lincoln's way of putting the same case at the same time. More than this, President Roosevelt is the first President in all our history, himself half Northern and half Southern. His father was a New Yorker, his mother a Georgian. He goes no farther than his own parents and their immediate kindred to include honored historic names in the two Empire States of the sections divided by the Red Sea of War.
Let those who can go to the deepest sources of vital information as to his state of mind and conscience and the determination of duty, examine the official reports and magazine and journalistic essays written by Theodore Roosevelt, of the Civil Service Commission, and see how eager and strong he was for a change in office holding, composed upon qualifications especially educational, that gave the most enlightened people official consideration. His views on that subject were well known to the representatives of the Republican party in the National Convention that first nominated a Vice-President with unanimity; and he got every vote from the South, and all but his own from the North.
As President Roosevelt construed, and so far as he had power, enforced, the Civil Service law when a Commissioner, he will do as he has thus far done, in the way of selecting competent men for office, which the masses of the white people in the Southern States have for a generation solicited. He proposes to eliminate an element of competition. The color line can not, in justice, common sense, or decently fair play, be drawn against the blacks on this subject; and it would not be honorable to draw it, if it were practicable, which it is not. Why, therefore, the rude quaking and clamor that we have heard about Booker Washington dining with the President of the United States? There is something about this unreasonable and irrational. The President of the United States must, if he has reached, and has not lost, the common discretion of a sound and disposing mind, feel the obligation to treat with civility a representative man—and that man, according to the tests in all other countries, a gentleman—who is one of the nine million citizens of these United States. The outcry against this commonplace courtesy to a man who has done a great work for his people, is a "relic of barbarism." Is there, by possibility, a subterranean political movement about this disturbance, because there have been many declarations that if the fear of black dominance could be exorcised from the South, all the States that were half way or altogether in the Southern Confederacy would change their politics, and there would be found no fork in the national road they would travel.
Booker Washington has the statesmanship and the instinct of supporting the thing that can be done, that leads him to believe the better course for the people of his race is not to stir up strife by office seeking, especially by those who, through no fault of tbeir own perhaps, are incompetently ignorant. He believes in the further emancipation of his race, through the increase in numbers and advantages of education of black farmers and the black housekeepers on the land their husbands own.
The real issue that appeals to the people is, whether we shall make an effort to put out sectionalism from National politics, not to go through the old formula of those who sought to elude the questions of the day by shouting, "No North, no South, no East, no West." Let us have a North, South, East and West—a solid quadrilateral.
What record on the questions of section and questions of race has Theodore Roosevelt made? There is no mystery, no shadow of doubt, about his opinions. He speaks without uncertainty of all things that interest the people, and his utterances have been more remarkable for their frankness and their force than the sayings of any other man of his age and generation. Has there been any finer tribute paid to the South since the war of her desolation than this, written by President Roosevelt, of his reception in Texas with his troops, on the way from San Jacinto to Tampa, Florida, and bloody Santiago de Cuba? The words are those of a hero, a high toned gentleman, a humane man, who knew and respected, as it was in his heart's blood and brain to regard and revere, the misfortune of brave men who were beaten in tremendous war; and good women who suffered and were sad because the fife and drum and bugle gave them music that stirred sorrowful memories:
"Everywhere the people came out to greet us and cheer us. They brought us flowers; they brought us watermelons and other fruits, and sometimes jugs and pails of milk—all of which we greatly appreciated. We were traveling through a region where practically all the older men had served in the Confederate Army, and where the younger men had all their lives long drunk in the endless tales told by their elders, at home, and at the cross-roads taverns, and in the court-house squares, about the cavalry of Forrest and Morgan, and the infantry of Jackson and Hood. The blood of the old men stirred to the distant breath of battle; the blood of the young men leaped hot with eager desire to