Harper's Weekly 06/24/1865


OUR DUTY IN REORGANIZATION.

Peace,” said Edmund Burke,“may be
made as unadvisedly as war. Nothing is so
rash as fear, and the counsels of pusillanimity
very rarely put off, while they are always sure
to aggravate, the evils from which they would
fly.” What this country needs to secure peace
is the firm application of a plain principle. The
principle of State rights, like that of country
rights and town rights, is a good one. But the
principle of national rights is the paramount
and essential principle of the present situation.
All subordinate rights whatever must bend to
the national necessity of a local government in
every State based upon the consent of the whole
body of loyal freemen.


The national authority is fully competent to
secure that government. There is no reason
whatever why the nation should delegate its
authority to secure such State governments in
the South to a part of the loyal freemen resi-
dent there. At this moment no one loyal free-
man of North Carolina has any right to a voice
in reorganizing the State which every other
does not equally possess. There is no more
reason, except in an imaginary view of policy,
why the national Government should authorize
white loyalists alone to reorganize the State gov-
ernment of North Carolina because the voters
in that State were formerly white than that it
should authorize the colored loyalists alone to
reorganize it because they have been always
faithful to the country. As a question of pol-
icy merely, it is clear that if any class of loyal-
ists object to reorganize the State upon acknowl-
edged democratic republican principles that is
not a class to which the reorganization can be
safely intrusted. It is better policy to govern
the State directly by the national authority than
to relinquish it to such a class.


An apparently well-informed correspondent
of the New York Times says, in a late letter
from North Carolina: “While many admit that
it may be the negro will be qualified to exercise
that right in the future, every one thinks that
he is not intelligent enough to do so now.”
“Every one” means, of course, the white popu-
lation; the class who were formerly among the
voters of the State. Yet in the very next para-
graph of his letter the correspondent says: “The
ignorance of the poorer classes is heart-rending,
and their prejudices are strong as only those of
ignorant men are…..Not more than one-seventh
of the voters can read or write.
” These are the
people who think the negro is not intelligent
enough to vote; and these are the white loyal-
ists to whom the apologists and friends of the
rebellion insist that the right of voting shall be
exclusively given because the colored loyalists
are not sufficiently “intelligent!” The same
correspondent adds: “They exhibit a prejudice
against the slave that readily accounts for the
ease with which `the Southern heart was fired'
during the war.” And it is to these persons
that it is proposed the question of suffrage for
the colored freemen in the State shall be re-
ferred.


Is it surprising that, as a letter in the Herald
says, “Among the negroes, however, there is
sorrow?” Yes, and among ourselves—among
the people of the United States, who have still
the decision of the question—should there not
be shame? Side by side with our brothers and
friends, upon the soil of both the Carolinas, the
colored men, to whom we had given no special
cause to love us or to believe in us, fought for
our Government and shared our victory. Side
by side the bodies of the brave men, black and
white, mingle in the dust. In a nameless grave
upon Morris Island the fair-haired Shaw lies
“buried with his niggers,” all of them, soldiers
and leader, having fought in the full faith that
their death secured equal rights for all Amer-
ican citizens under the law. So they fought, so
they fell, on many a noble field. Shall those
who shot them down—those who hated them and
the cause which they defended; those who hate
the brave living black boys the more because
their brethren did not die in vain—be allowed
to do at the polls what they could not do in bat-
tle? They can not do it any where unless we
consent. Can we consent without eternal in-
famy?



Website design © 2000-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com