The Negro Laborer:
A WORD TO HIM
WILLIAM H. COUNCILL.
Many friends have invited me to deliver addresses at various points upon the Labour Question. Being unable to attend all the appointments, I have concluded to reach them through the following pages. The Labour Question is one of vast importance to all good citizens, and continues to increase in magnitude with the growth of population.
I claim no superior foresight or wisdom, and ask only a careful reading and that appreciation which the following remarks merit.
W. H. COUNCILL.
R F Dickson, Job Printer. Huntsville, Ala
I. THE LABORER.
1. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.—Gen. iii-19.
2. Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it.—Gen i-28.
3. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.—Gen. xi-7.
Nothing in the Holy Scriptures is more prominently set forth and persistently impressed than the duty of man to labor. In the quotations above made, it is clearly seen,
1. That labor is ordained by God, and therefore dignified. There is nothing dishonorable about labor. The man who is ashamed to put his hand to any kind of work which will bring a support to his family, has the wrong idea of labor, and will soon or late come to poverty or the prison. None are exempt. All are commanded to work, and the idler is an enemy to the state, a burden upon society, and a dishonor to his God.
2. That the labor of man is to be methodical—with an object in view, viz: building up the earth for pleasant abode of man, increasing both animal and vegetable life, and reducing wild nature—animal, aerial, mineral and plant life—to useful and comfortable forms for the children of men. This is a grand work! He is to be a constant builder! No where is he told to be destructive and cruel. But he must be fruitful, and multiply, replenish and subdue the things on and in the earth. The great God never gives a command to do without conferring the ability to do. The command is to every man, from the lowest to the highest—not to lawyers, doctors, philosophers and great men only, but to all men, and God has given every man the power of performing his part in this great work of multiplying, replenishing,[Pg 4] subduing and making the earth more fruitful. And that great, wise and good God will hold each of you as much responsible for the exercise of your physical powers, your working powers, as for the exercise of your intellectual and moral capacities in the replenishing and subduing the earth. How many will make up your minds that you will go forth in the strength of heaven and endeavor to do your full duty in the great and grand work which God has given to man?
3. That misdirected energy and inordinate ambition are displeasing to God, and will surely be punished by Him in His own time and way. The people who set about building the tower of Babel had been told by God to be fruitful, multiply, replenish and subdue the earth, and He gave them the power to do it. But they misapplied that power, and let their unholy ambition lead them in the wrong way. Hence God came down from heaven and scattered them abroad, thus setting his everlasting law against such folly: for bad ambition and power misspent are the same thing as destroying property, and God abominates such. Then it is our duty to see that our abilities are not only employed, but usefully employed, not only to our advantage, but not to the detriment or hurt of any other person. It is cruel and wicked to seek riches, or fame, or honor by destroying the property or the reputation of another person.
Having advanced these preliminary ideas, I shall now proceed to say some things further in regard to the Labor Question.
II. What is Labor.
Let us define Labor, that we may have a clear conception of the import of the word, which is so often used and so little understood. It means
1. Muscular effort directed to some useful end, as agriculture, manufactures, mining, &c., &c.
2. Intellectual exertion, mental effort, aimed to develop and elevate the human race in mind, morals and religion.
You will observe that there are two general classes of laborers, viz: Manual laborers, or those who eat bread in the sweat of their faces, from hand toil, as the merchant, clerk, carpenter,[Pg 5] farmer, cook, washerwoman, chambermaid, etc.; and the professional laborers, or those who eat bread in the sweat of their faces mostly by the exertion of the brain, as the school teacher, minister, physician, lawyer.
These two classes will serve for our present purpose. Of the good citizens in this country, all must belong to one or both of these classes of laborers, or be put down among the idlers who are condemned by God and man as worthless beings. I will remark here that it is a part of the duty of every good citizen to persuade his neighbor to engage in some useful employment, or see that he is punished as our vagrant laws provide.
III. The Proportion of the Two Classes.
The United States census of 1880 gives 265 occupations, engaged in by 17,392,099 persons 10 years of age and upward. Of the 265 occupations there are only six which I consider purely professional, to-wit:
Physicians and Surgeons 85,671
Authors, Lecturers and Literary Persons 1,131
Teachers and scientific men 227,710
This is about 2½ per cent. of the persons employed in the various occupations; or to put it more plainly, about 5 in every 200. The per cent. of persons of the colored race who are engaged in the professions is five times smaller. It is about ½ of one per cent. or one person in every 200. It will be seen from these figures that at least 97½ per cent. of all races are engaged in personal service and manual labor. The old expression “There is Room at the Top” has misled many a youth, and consequently many a man has found his way to the poor house or the felon’s cell. Public speakers and lecturers have done much to give a wrong impression of the meaning of this famous sentence uttered by Mr. Webster. They hold certain positions, or occupations, as being at the top. Such an erroneous idea never entered the head of that great statesman. He simply meant that whatever you[Pg 6] engaged in strive to reach perfection in that. The blacksmith may climb to the top in his occupation, the washerwoman may reach the top of her art, for washing is an art as much so as music or mathematics, and so with the carpenter, the mason, the hod carrier and the common laborer. Each may obtain such a degree of skill as will render his services indispensable to his employer. Did you ever think that there is art in the use of the pick, and that it may be cultivated with high satisfaction to the employer and employe?
This leads me to remark upon
IV. The Morals of Labor.
You often hear lawyers and doctors speak about the ethics of their professions. This means nothing more than those rules which should govern the lawyers and doctors in their relation to each other and to their clients and patients. Now, every occupation has its ethics. The workmen are bound by moral obligations to have regard for the interests of one another; i. e. they are morally bound to give one another equal chance in the great race for bread. Then they must observe all the rules for the government of their relations to the employer. This is very important, as the good of society depends entirely upon the faithful observance of the laws of reciprocity. The Great Teacher has laid down one infallible rule which is ample for all the transactions of life, viz: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” I would like for you to regard this divine injunction as your constitution, and then adopt the following by-laws:
1. Decide what you are going to follow for a living.
2. Select an occupation in keeping with your abilities and capabilities.
3. Thoroughly qualify yourself for that calling.
4. Always have a plain understanding with your employer as to wages and hours of work.
5. Carry out your part of the contract “though the heavens fall.”
6. Be at the place at the time appointed, do faithfully your work in a good spirit, not grumblingly, and then your employer[Pg 7] will meet you in a like spirit, and your life will be one of happiness.
7. Consider that for the time being you are the property of your employer, and faithfully obey his instructions and requests.
8. It is better—more honest—to give him an hour or two of labor than to cheat him by idling or work poorly performed.
9. Avoid intoxicants, especially while you are at work, for as your time belongs to your employer, you should strive to render faithful, intelligent service, which can not be done under the influence of liquor. Besides, you endanger your own life and the safety of the property you are paid to protect.
10. Be frank, and never under any circumstances deceive your employer. If you have done wrong, or made a mistake, own it like a man. He will respect you more for it.
11. Treat your employer’s property as you would your own; and if you are a careless man, treat it better.
12. Be polite and gentle to your fellow workmen and your employer, as coarse jests and ill temper are out of place even on the rock pile, as well as in the parlor. Remember the street scavenger can be a Chesterfield as well as the gentleman of fashion who graces the richest drawing room.
“True politeness is to do and say
The noblest things in the kindest way.”
I shall next consider
V. Labor, Capital and Wealth.
1. Labor has been defined.
2. Capital is that which is employed to produce wealth.
3. Wealth is accumulated capital at rest.
Society can no more be in a healthful state without the harmonious working of these three elements, governed by ethics, than the human body could without the united action of heart, arteries and veins influenced by the lungs. Let me go a step further and say that labor is capital, or labor and capital are one. Labor is power. That power produces wealth. That wealth in action is called capital, and thus the work of labor, capital and wealth goes on subduing the earth. Every individual with all the powers and[Pg 8] capacities of his constitution sound, is a capitalist to the extent of the exercise of those powers. That which such exercise produces and he accumulates is wealth, and if he wish to employ it to produce other wealth, it becomes capital.
The peanut vendor is a capitalist to the extent of his investment in earth nuts, roaster, pans, baskets, etc. The little girl who peddles laces, or newspapers, or pins around the streets, is as much a capitalist to the extent of her investment as Mr. Vanderbilt or Mr. Gould. Mr. Gould and Mr. Vanderbilt have simply by the exercise of more economy, sagacity and energy accumulated more wealth than she. But the peanut vendor may become a greater capitalist as he accumulates more wealth and employs it. It is folly to point the finger of prejudice and envy at the very rich people and cry: “These men oppress us; these capitalists are sharks; these wealthy people have our earnings.” It is not only folly, but it is unjust. I see many of you with watches and chains, rings on your fingers, and pins on your breasts. These articles are wealth. They represent so much capital—labor or money—at rest. The man who owns the watch worth $8 and the one with the $100 watch, are men of wealth to the valuation of those useful articles. The poor laborer, who, by industry and frugality, after the exercise of his capital—his muscle—accumulates enough to buy an acre of land and erect a small cottage for his faithful wife and little ones, was in turn a laborer, capitalist, and is now a man of wealth to the value of that happy little home, where peace and virtue reign and upon which the blessings of God rest. Mr. Vanderbilt is a man of greater wealth than this man, but it is because he operated a larger capital. Some times a spirit of envy creeps in between these two capitalists and then both suffer—each in proportion to his wealth. This brings me to consider
This form of ownership originated in bloody Rome. It was tried among the early christians. Wherever it has been introduced failure and crime followed. The population of the United States and Territories is 50,155,783; the value of real estate and personal property is $16,902,993,443. Divide this according to[Pg 9] agrarianism and each person would get $337, which by trade and speculation would soon again be in the hands of a few. And thus with each day we should have to re-collect and re-distribute. Out of such a system no good could possibly come. Nature everywhere teaches that differences and distinctions must exist. Why has she been more lavish with the peafowl than with the crow? Why has she bedecked the gold finch or the bird of paradise more gorgeously than the snow bird or the hawk? Why the lily more fragrant and fair than the sun-flower? Why the difference in the magnitude of the twinkling stars? Why the dissimilarity in the talents of men? Why are some men born idiots and others with the sparkling gems of genius shining in their souls? Why do some mountains possess millions of dollars of the precious or useful minerals and others only sandstone or lime rock? The answers are secrets locked up in the mystery of the Almighty. The man of talent, of push, of energy, frugality and sagacity can not help accumulating more of the results of labor than the individual of opposite qualities. Agrarianism is a foe to thrift and activity, and encourages idleness and stagnation. It would paralyze business and cause the wheels of industry to hang dry and still over the stream of progress.
Agrarianism is a hydra-headed monster. It has presented itself in many forms and at various times. To-day it breeds discontent among the common people which to-morrow bursts into rebellion and revolution. Lawlessness prevails, property is destroyed and bloody murder stalks boldly abroad. Is anything gained? No! as loud as heaven’s loudest artillery can sound it. All classes of capitalists are weakened, wealth is destroyed, and fond Hope, the bright anchor of the soul, sits dark and gloomy in the ashes of ruin.
Communism. Saint-Simonianism, nihilism, anarchy, socialism, Henry Georgeism, are all dangerous forms of that hideous monster, agrarianism. Every capitalist—every man of wealth,—whether his muscle is his only stock in trade or not, or whether he counts his capital and wealth by dimes or by millions—should seize the bludgeon of reason and justice and strike the monster—the common foe to the progress and happiness of man—a deadly blow. It is true that laboring men have their grievances, but
are not the means by which these wrongs may be set right. The appeal to strikes is an appeal from reason to error, from justice to injustice, from order to disorder, from law to riot, from morality to immorality, from virtue to sin, from innocence to murder. The strike is a foe to the infant at the mother’s breast; it is an enemy to the happiness of home; it is the howling wolf at the door of the humble cottage; it is hostile to personal liberty; it is an enemy to religion, it is the embodiment of riot and murder striding through the land stamping out the life of the nation, crushing out the manhood of the citizens, setting a premium upon crime and outlawing virtue and honesty. I wish I had the power to represent it in its true light. A mass of grumbling, dissatisfied men who will not work, by desperation and lawlessness deterring others from honest toil. Business is paralyzed and millions of dollars sunk. But this is small compared to the suffering and misery and want in the homes of these frantic men. Could we but lift the curtain which hides their dark homes, a picture would be presented which would cause the blood to chill and sicken the soul. These men hang around the saloons and stifle the cries for bread from their homes by liquor and beer—a morsel of cheese or a cracker answering for food. But what about the wretched wife and starving child?
But they do not stop there. The torch, pistol, the knife, the bomb and infernal machines are brought in to play their deadly parts. Then the fire fiend with his angry tongue laps up wealth and happy homes, the knife and the pistol start streams of human gore down the gutters of the streets, and the hellish bomb brings massive edifices cracking, crumbling to the earth.
The fiend having sated himself in gore and ruin, surveys the field of desolation. What has been gained? Nothing. If permitted he returns to work with a weakened constitution, less respect of his family, kept under the watch of the law, without the confidence of his employer and with the curse of his own conscience. You ask: “If strikes are not the remedy, what is the remedy?” Have a clear understanding with your employer. Try to enter into his interests and feelings. Tell him plainly that you can not[Pg 11] afford to work for him at present rates. If he can not or does not raise your wages, give him notice that you will quit at a certain time, and then do not interfere with the person engaged in your place. All parties will feel better, and your employer may soon be able to grant your request and recall you. You certainly have no right to interfere with others who are willing to work for him.
The colored laborer can neither afford to strike nor encourage strikes. He has felt the baneful effects of them. He has time and time again seen white labor organizations resort to this method of getting colored men out of employment. If it is right against the employer for higher wages, it is right against a fellow-workman on account of race or color. But it is not right at all. This is a country of law and order, and the negro’s salvation lies in his willing obedience to law—fairly and impartially administered.
VIII. Labor Organizations.
I do not deny labor the right of organization for the advancement of its interests. This is legitimate and highly proper so long as the general interests of society are protected. There is, perhaps, no country upon the globe which extends greater liberties and protection to labor than the United States of America. In Alabama and many other states of the union, the mechanic’s lien enables him to compel the employer to fulfill his obligations, but the employer has no remedy against the mechanic except in rare cases where bonds have been given by the contractor.
The cause of the laboring man has kept pace with the march of civilization and progress, until the order of government has been reversed and the laboring classes have become the rulers. However, they are threatened with great danger growing out of the slavery entailed by labor organizations. Few of them are for the real advancement of the interests of labor, but mere machines for the personal aggrandizement of the politicians who stand behind the scenes. The laborer, in attempting to avoid the imaginary Scylla of capital, may dash his life out against the terrible Charybdis of demagogy. Our laws all favor the laborer, and I make this assertion regardless of statements of those who[Pg 12] see gain in keeping labor in a state of excitement. In Egypt, many hundreds of years ago, the poorer class could not be anything else. They were not permitted, under heavy penalties, to change their occupations or locations. A hod carrier was doomed to that work during his natural life. Other countries more recently oppressed labor just as severely. I mention this in illustration of the depths from which labor has come. To-day the laborer may not only change his location but may change his occupation, and ply a dozen if he choose to do so. An organization which has for its object the moral and intellectual advancement of its members, as well as their financial welfare, is not objectionable and should be encouraged. But where prejudice is aroused against other forms of labor (as capital, banking, etc., etc.) they are lawless, dangerous, and should be shunned by every good laboring man. No organization outside of a benevolent institution should be secret, and I doubt the propriety of all secret societies. Secrecy is too often the cloak for evil and scheming. The dark clouds of secrecy have ever been the means of over-awing or misleading the lower classes. Permit me to introduce here the following extract from an address bearing upon this subject. It is so excellent that I will be pardoned for clipping at length and endorsing it in toto:
“The twenty-fourth annual Grand International Convention of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was held in Chicago on the 19th October, with delegates present from all parts of the Union. The Grand Chief Engineer, P. M. Arthur, with his usual rare good sense, said in the course of his annual address: We are enemies only to wrong in its various devices and garbs, and can assuredly say that political schemes and aspirations have no place nor part in our association. A mighty army of men, representing 365 divisions, has gathered about a nucleus of 12 men who, 24 years ago, assembled in the city of Detroit and started an organization destined to be more than they knew or dreamed. To-day we number 25,000 men, and while our numbers are great, we would not have you consider only the quantity, but the quality as well. To be a Brotherhood man, four things are requisite, namely: Sobriety, truth, justice, and morality. This is our motto, and upon this precept have we based our practice. Taking all things into consideration, our relations, both to [Pg 13]ourselves and with various railroads, employing Brotherhood men, are amicable. When we consider the dissatisfaction which is everywhere manifest about us, our few troubles pale in insignificance. There have been times and incidents when the ‘strike’ was the only court of appeals for the workingman, and the evil lay in the abuse of them and not in the use of them. The methods used to bring about a successful termination of strikes, the abuse of property and even of persons, have brought the very name into disrepute, while the troubles of the laboring man are receiving mere cant, and sympathy for him is dying out. More and more clearly defined is the line becoming which divides the honest man, satisfied with a just remuneration which he has truly earned, until by his own effort he can rise to a higher position in life, and the loud-voiced ‘bomb thrower,’ who scarcely able to speak the English language, seeks to win his own comfortable living from those who have worked for it, presuming upon the imagination and arousing false hopes in the hearts of those who are still more ignorant than himself. Among sensible men the day for all this is past. Let ‘mercy season justice, and justice be tempered with moderation.’ A wise arbitration looks to a long result rather than to immediate satisfaction, and accomplishes more than intimidation ever can hope to do.
“‘It is not my intention,’ said Mr. Arthur, ‘to impose upon this convention any dogma upon the drink question; but I cannot refrain in honesty to my own convictions from deploring the sad havoc that intemperance is making in the ranks of our fellow men. So great is this evil that no man or woman who is striving to improve his fellows can help taking it into account. It is, indeed, an important factor for evil in our midst. Not only from the physical and moral standpoint is it working mischief, but from the standpoint of labor. The man who has so little self-control that he cannot resist the temptation to degrade himself is always in danger of bringing disgrace upon his brethren. He has lost his self-respect and, to some extent, his independence, thus making an easier victim to the greed of a selfish employer. I would therefore urge upon you the necessity of abstaining from everything that will in the slightest degree impair your usefulness as citizens or your efficiency as locomotive engineers.'”
IX. The Negro and the Labor Question.
Competency is a prerequisite to all occupations. I have alluded to this above, but I desire to treat it more at length here, and especially in its relation to the Negro of the South.
In consequence of former conditions, incompetency has been the normal standard of both employer and employe. The conditions being changed, and new relations existing between these two classes in the South, the standard must be changed—must be raised. I shall put aside sentimentalism, and view the subject in its true light.
What is the “Negro Labor Problem” of the future?
Simply the ability on the part of the Negro to remain in the market as a laborer, and the ability of the Southern white man to meet the labor complications of the future, which will be developed in the necessity for better skilled labor, and the desire of the white man to get this superior labor at the old prices.
Leaving competency and skill out of the question, it will be readily admitted that the Negro is the most desirable of all races as a laborer. He is kind, forgiving, and easily understood and managed. He is willing to work and at almost any price. This is shown in the fact that there is a larger per cent. of bread winners in the Southern States than any other section, except in the far West and East. But he is ignorant, improvident and unskilled; and it is to be regretted that his progress is slow in the cultivation of skill in the industries, but there are fruitful and encouraging signs in this direction.
There are two causes which tend to demand a higher standard of labor qualification in the South:
1. The more free intermixture of northern and southern people—thereby bringing the southern people in contact with the superior white labor of the North.
2. The immigration of northern people who have been accustomed to cultivated, free labor.
We do not pretend to hint that the Negro laborer will not improve, but will he do so sufficiently and rapidly enough to meet the heavy demand?
He must be able to compete with the skilled white labor, ready[Pg 15] to crowd the South, or he must go to the rear. This is a stern fact, becoming more and more patent daily.
I am not speaking only of the Negro as a domestic servant, carpenter, brick-mason, and other occupations of the cities, but of him as a farmer. Sentimentality, which has had much to do with holding the Negro and white man together in their relation of employer and employe, is fast giving way to business principles which are to govern the future South. If my forty acres can be made to produce more by A’s method of farming than by B’s, A is a more scientific, skilled and desirable tenant, so B must stand aside. This is the “Negro problem”, in its relation to labor, in a nut shell.
I wish I could impress you with the importance and the opportunity of monopolizing the cotton production of the South. I wish I could arouse every Negro in the South to seize this opportunity which may pass away in the next decade. Scientifically cultivated, there is money in cotton. For two hundred years it was the South’s only source of income. It now brings to the South $300,000,000 per annum.
The white people of the South, if they were inclined, are as illy prepared to part from the Negro as a laborer, as the Negro is to seek service elsewhere. A breaking of the present relations and the introduction of white servants, would necessitate a change of the social system of the South, which southern people hold as sacred as life. So, while there are some things which seem to demand an exchange of labor, there are certain other things which appear to be able to hold haste in check. But, how will the Negro remain in the market? How will he keep himself from being elbowed from the brick walls, the forge, the bench, the embankment, the kitchen, the dray, and other places? This brings me, in answering these questions, to the consideration of
X. The Laborer’s Education and Home.
1. Education.—An old Spartan King was asked by an anxious father what he should teach his son. The king replied: “Teach him those things which he will practice when he becomes a man.” This is the correct principle of education. A father should study[Pg 16] the abilities and capacities of his children, and encourage them to follow the inclinations of their talents. A boy who has a mind for mechanics, or mathematics, or agriculture, cannot be made a doctor. Money spent on his medical education is money misspent.
I have shown above that only about one in every two hundred colored persons are engaged in the law, medicine, clergy, and other professional and literary pursuits. I do not pretend to question the Negro’s ability to attain the acme in these vocations. I concede it and verily believe it. But I am dealing in cold facts, not speculation nor sentimentality. Again, I do not doubt that with the growth of population, the increase in learning and property among the Negroes, there will be a corresponding increase, yes, larger increase in the number engaged in the professions, and in the trades and personal service—as merchants, clerks, etc., etc. As shown above, only five in every two hundred of the whole population engaged in occupations, in the United States and Territories, are in the six professions mentioned. Of the Negro race, only about ½ of one per cent., or one in every two hundred, are so engaged.
The bread winners, or working population, are only 39½ per cent. of the whole population of the country, and are distributed as follows:
Professional and personal service 4,074,238
Trade and transportation 1,810,256
Manufacturing, mechanical and mining industries 3,837,112
It is easily seen that nearly one-half of our working population must be educated for agriculture; not quite one fourth for professional and personal service; about one-eighth for trade and transportation, and a few more than one-fourth for manufacturing, mechanical and mining pursuits. There are certain fundamental principles common to all education. After these are inculcated, the aim should be to develop the individual for his life work, or prepare him for that occupation which is to bring him bread.
Leaving the subject of early training, I now pass to the consideration of the importance of the intelligence of the laboring man. This is necessary for the protection of himself, his employer and the peace of society. It is much easier to understand and get[Pg 17] along with educated men than ignorant ones. The laboring man should set aside a few cents to be invested in papers, books, &c., which give him information in relation to his work, his duties, and tend morally to benefit him. He should spend a few hours every week in trying to inform himself on various things. He should be a thinking man, and his food for thought should be of the most wholesome character, or he will cease to be a useful member of society and become a destructive element. There are certain little things in medicine, physics, chemistry, agriculture, law and other branches which he should know, and his knowledge would save him much pain and many dollars. I commend the following article, taken from a paper called Builder and Woodworker:
“If the ordinary, every-day workman, engaged at his bench in the pursuit of his vocation, were aware of the enormous number of natural laws by which his every action is controlled, he would be surprised at their existence and desirous of learning about them. This desire would be natural and most praiseworthy, yet the fear of study stems to prevent those who would like to gain this knowledge from simply reading, as one would a story, the interesting things described in books on physics—facts far more valuable than fiction, and so clearly demonstrated that a mere tyro can understand and experiment from description, thus proving how much can be learned even from a rapid perusal.
“Why should a woodworking mechanic study the science? The reasons why he should do so are numerous and important, and in explaining some of them we shall endeavor, as far as possible, to show its practical application and the part it plays in his individual efforts, though, at the same time, it must not be forgotten that all the movements on this earth of ours depend on and are controlled, according to the principles of natural philosophy.
“Let us consider for a moment its bearing on a man standing at a bench in the act of pushing forward a jack plane. What first of all retains his body on the floor on which he stands? The force of gravitation, which as described retains the earth particles together, and all bodies animate or inanimate on its surface, by drawing them to its center, this influence being exercised on the building in which he labors, retaining its constituents in their[Pg 18] positions. It also acts on his person to such an extent that were he devoid of the power of movement, he would be as immovably fixed as the inanimate wood he stands upon. This force, likewise, keeps his stuff on his bench and the plane on his work, and prevents the flying off at a tangent which would occur with all terrestrial bodies were the attraction to cease for a moment. How simple is the fact when demonstrated!
“Avoiding the consideration of the different attractions, we will glance at the mechanical means he goes through in planing. Standing with his two feet together, would it be possible for him to lift a shaving? It would not, because the resisting force generated by the friction of the wedge-shaped iron in entering the woody fibers would be so great that this body, being unable to resist it, would be pushed outside the perpendicular line of gravity, and fall. To overcome this resistance he increases his base, and lowering the center of gravity of the body, leans forward and throws his weight on his left leg, with his right forming, as it were, a brace.
“Now he can exert his powers effectually, for having overcome unvarying natural forces by the use of natural laws.
“His arms, as he moves them forward or draws them back again, are nothing more than a splendid system of compound levers, and the tool employed is on a cubical prism, with an angular opening into which a wedge of steel is inserted and fastened, with its point projecting below the sole or lower face. This wedge is forced forward by lateral pressure, and entering the wood gives out a shaving or strip equal in proportion to the projection.
“How many of us are there who know that the edges of our plane iron and chisels, saw teeth, in fine our principal tools, are modifications of a simple wedge, and fewer still who know its power or how to increase its utility in practice.
“To us who handle it daily, the screw, or as it is in reality a revolving wedge, is a mystery and an unknown thing, though we are familiar with its usefulness; yet, while in the act of propelling a screw with a screw-driver, a multitude of forces and machines are employed, which are grand in their simplicity and worthy of study.
“That which teaches why a plumb bob hangs quiescent at the[Pg 19] extremity of a string, and why a level is determined by the centering of an alcoholic bubble in a tube, and other valuable mechanical facts, should not be passed over by him whose philosophy is to devote his life to improving the means by which the comfort and happiness of human nature are gained. Independent even of this essential reason, it is imperative that we make ourselves acquainted with the component parts and properties of materials, in order to train the mind into a line of thought tending to invention and the bringing forth of valuable ideas, which only those familiar with this science can essay.”
Home.—Home is the little harbor into which we anchor our vessels after a day’s battle with the elements on the ocean of life; it is a port of supply into which we steer our bark to prepare for running a few more knots amid pirates and breakers; it is the haven where our dear ones should be secure from the storms of adversity, and where peace, virtue and happiness reign. Of all places, home should be the dearest to us. There the faithful wife, the partner of our joy and sorrow, our sunshine and storm, our prosperity and adversity, and our merry children greet us as we return weary and worn with the toils of the day and heart-sore of the jeers and slights of men. In that home let the Word of God be the supreme law. In that home let all be united for truth and virtue; and the winds may blow, the rains fall, and the floods descend, but it will stand unharmed. A few substantial articles of furniture, a few small pictures on the wall, a floor neat and clean, the rays of the king of day streaming in cheer through a glass window or two, a yard clean and in order, a flower or a shrub, the fence and front of the little cottage with a coat of new paint, costing only about one dollar because it was spread on by the son or the father at extra time, and you have a home to be envied by a king, whether you own it, or rent it.
Keep in mind that the school room and pulpit combined cannot elevate people above their homes. As their homes are, they will be. As long as father and mother, son and daughter sleep in the same room, often occupying the same bed, we cannot make much progress in virtue. The off-spring is born with corrupt mentality. Make partitions if they must be constructed of old newspapers. By all means give privacy to your daughters, if you wish them to be virtuous and modest.
Lift the curtain, and let me show you the home of an individual who has lost the comeliness of manhood—let me show you the hovel this brute disgraces. Look! It is eight o’clock in the evening. The wife in her old torn and soiled dress, is still faithfully engaged at the wash-tub. An old broken lamp, smoking and sputtering, gives a pale and ghastly light. The chunks of wood in the fire place are shoved together, and four or five half clad, half starved little children are quarrelling and wallowing in the sand, whence the bricks long since have been taken. There is not a whole knife, or fork, or spoon, or plate, or dish, or cup, or glass—not an article of furniture which is not scarred and broken. At nine, that faithful wife, who is wearing out her life with that miserable brute, has suspended her work, made the last bit of meal into a hoe cake and divided it among those wretched little creatures, and packed them away among some filthy and torn quilts on a dirty straw mattress. She then returns to finish her labors. At eleven, the thing called a man and husband and father enters. He is just from the dram shop or the house of prostitution, where he has spent his week’s earnings with others of that ilk. He has no “Good evening,” no kind word for that faithful wife. He growls “Nothing here to eat?” As that poor, weak, abused woman tremblingly stammers out an excuse, with fiendish look and clenched fist he rushes upon her! Down let the curtain drop! For angels and gods could not now look upon what follows without tears of sympathy and anger intermingled! That man may be a church member! He is certainly a member of some benevolent or labor society, and may stand high in its councils. Is he a fit associate for a true man? Should he not be hurled from your midst as an unworthy companion? Here is work for the laboring man, and all men! Let us elevate our home life, and make our wives and children happier.
The Germans are noted for their attractive homes. By comforts, sports, songs, music, books, etc., they throw a charm into their homes which inspires, cheers and elevates all who come within their influences. May every laboring man in America build for himself such a home, whether he lives in the city cottage or in the country cabin.
XI. Buy a Home.
There are in the United States 9,945,916 families, of 5.04 persons to the family. There are only 8,955,812 dwellings, with 5.06 persons to the dwelling. It will be seen that there are 990,104 families, or five million people, without dwellings, either owned or rented—no where to rest their heads. Is this the result of over population? It is not. It will be centuries before our country will reach that stage. It is the result of shiftlessness and the inertia of population. If lands are high in the cities and older states, they may be had upon your own terms in the broad, open West. There are also hundreds of thousands of acres for homestead entry in the southern states. It is true that much of it is mountain land, but it will be gold to the man who will bear the privations of justifying his claim to it. There are also corporations with large means, as well as individuals, in nearly all of our cities who are willing to sell to thrifty persons lots or farms on reasonable terms. Now is the golden opportunity. The working men of the South will never have such an opportunity again to get homes. With the increase of population by birth and influx, lands must rise in demand and price. I have heard of one legitimate objection to selling lands to colored persons. It is said that they buy on mortgage transfer, soon become discouraged, allow ruin and dilapidation to follow, and then surrender the place in worse condition than delivered to them. This objection can easily be overcome by taking my pattern for the happy home. If this is done, the vendor would hardly foreclose a mortgage should you get much behind in your payments, as the property would be constantly increasing in value.
XII. The Newspapers and the Negro.
There is general complaint among the colored people that we do not get newspaper notices only of our misdeeds. This is not true. The best papers, North and South, publish whatever information they can get worthy of commendation. We are too sensitive on this point. My experience and observation are that the press is well disposed toward the Negro. It is true there are many papers of small reputation full of prejudice, or surrounded[Pg 22] by a narrow-minded constituency, that do not wish the Negro well, but they are a weak minority. The following taken from the Huntsville (Ala.) Daily Mercury of recent date, sufficiently proves my position.
“The workmen employed on the Baker & Helm block on the corner of Washington and Clinton Sts., are workmen right, and deserve a word of kind praise for the ‘big licks’ they have accomplished in the erection of this building.
“We are told that every brick layer on the work is a colored man, and we do not hesitate to say that they have shown up wonderfully well, and performed good, honest labor quickly done. The rafters for the roof are now being placed in position, and once the roof is on, the finishing strokes will be given with refreshing precision. All honor to the colored mechanics, they are entitled to much praise, and we shall see that they get all they deserve, and which they are justly entitled to.”
Also, M. Quad, the correspondent of the Detroit Free Press, writing from Eufaula, Alabama, says of the colored people there:
“Come down here and I will show you hundreds of acres of the best lands which are owned by the black men. I can show you from ten to twelve colored men who have more acres, better buildings, and more cash than any like number of white farmers in some of our Michigan counties. The colored school is fully equal to the white one, and the people speak of this fact with pride. There was a time when the streets of Eufaula were crowded with vagrant blacks, none of whom had the ambition to earn a shilling more than would give him food and clothes. The vagrant laws were enforced, and the change was astonishing. There is not an idler in the place. There is not a black man in or around the town who isn’t given the fairest kind of a show to go ahead. While the white man will always enforce respect, he will bear and assist and condone. Alabama is to-day doing more for the flesh and blood it once cracked the slave whip over than Michigan is doing for its unlettered and vicious white population. The black man of the south is improving every year, and no one will concede this quicker nor feel prouder over the fact than the southern whites. There need be no sympathy wasted on the black man of Alabama. He is doing for himself[Pg 23] in education and finance, far better than some of the white population of the north.”
Possess merit and that will tell whether you get into the papers or not.
The means of obtaining the kinds of notices we wish published in the white papers, are quite meagre. The court records are the only information accessible to them. Very few of us have any business or association with the white press. We never think of letting them know of our transactions, hence how can they receive notice? This complaint is without justification and should cease Stand up for the colored press, and it will prove ample for us in all things.
XIII. A Plain Question for Southern Consideration.
One of the great questions which must command the consideration of southern people, in the immediate future, is better care of the servants, and more attention to their moral and industrial training. I am dealing with the servant class of our people, which at present is more than ninety-nine per cent. of the race. The employer can not help having a deep interest in this class, if he would protect his own family. Ninety-five per cent. of the nurses and chamber-maids of the South are colored. These servants are thrown in hourly contact with the children of the families they serve. The nurses do much to shape the lives of the children they carry in their arms. Earliest impressions are most enduring. Somebody has said: “Give me the first seven years of a child’s life and you may have the man.” The influences of the nurse will be felt throughout the life of the child. If those influences are virtuous, exercised by an intelligent, honest christian nurse, great good will result. But if the nurse have the opposite qualities—if she be indolent, sloven, ignorant, vicious and deceptive—the child will surely imbibe some of these disorders which will show themselves some where in the life of the child, or his offspring. Moral contagions are more deadly and easily communicated than any diseases of the body. What fond mother would commit her infant to the arms of a leper? And yet it[Pg 24] were better to do that, than expose it to influences which corrupt the mind and taint the whole constitution. It is a fact that southern white women have been accustomed, for many generations, to surrender the care and training of their children to “black mamas,” who inspired manhood and gave the first great lessons of God and truth to hundreds of the present hoary haired statesmen of the Sunny South. This custom is still a delight in the South, and white mothers trust their children to the care of Negro nurses with the same implicit faith that Thetis committed her young Achilles to the charge of Phoenix and Chiron. I wish that these nurses sufficiently appreciated this confidence and would feel a deep pride in their work and responsibility. It must be borne in mind that the relations of thirty years ago do not exist, and the results of the ante-bellum nursery government and the system of to-day, cannot be the same.
Here is a work for Southern women of the white race. Leave out of the question the love for mankind, which should prompt them to elevate the whole race of man, they must meet this matter of the elevation of domestics on selfish grounds if no other. They must in self protection strive to make the house servant class intelligent and virtuous. Honesty must become a part of the mentality, and not a form or a cloak worn while under the surveillance of the law, or the eye of virtue. Who says that the colored servant is not as honest as any other servant? I do not. I am not making comparisons at all. I am speaking of things as I want them to be. If they are so already, then I “rejoice with exceeding great joy.” The importation of white family servants and nurses will not solve the problem. It is a question which cannot be handled except in the light of christian education. The importation of white servants means the introduction of disorder in domestic government, and it will produce a revolution in the social system of the South. It will bring communism in the kitchen, socialism in the dining-room, nihilism in the chamber, and the hand of anarchy to rock the cradles of the South. Let the South nurse the Negro with right and kindness, while the Negro nurses the infants of the South, and we shall have domestic labor of the most desirable class.
There should be attached to every well ordered southern home[Pg 25] rooms for the servants. These rooms should be comfortable in all their appointments. In the villages and small towns as well as in the cities this is needful. Women of all grades must be modest. Modesty is her shield. When she loses that, she is exposed to the licentious missiles of vulgar men. It disarms a girl of her womanly reservedness to be thrown early in morning and late at night, alone, into the streets going to and from her work. She finally gets a boldness which is out of place in any home.
The South can not be too earnest nor too lavish in the cause of education. It can well afford to give two dollars to the cause where one goes now. It is right, and self preservation demands it. While the schools are being increased and put upon a higher plain, the work must be carried on in the families. Let industrial training become the watchword of every man interested in the true growth of our country. I know of a family (of Huntsville) which has done much in the training of domestic servants. The good lady of the house took great pains in explaining (not scolding) and teaching (not driving) to her servants things which her superior education enabled her to understand, or which she had been taught. She, in this manner, educated two or three servants, who, when the time came for separation (and it was always peaceful), were able to earn larger wages than their more unfortunate fellow servants.
I hope that all who love the happiness of home and are concerned about the good of society, will give this matter thoughtful investigation, and earnestly endeavor to benefit this important class of our employes.
XIV. “Social Equality.”
“Social equality” is a political scare crow, as there is no such thing, in fact. It is to the illiterate class of whites what putting the Negroes back into slavery was to the ignorant class of colored people. Those who talk most about it know the least about it. The cultivated southerner is not disturbed about social equality. There has never been, and there will never be, among the same race, nor between different races, any such thing as social equality. Freedom does not mean “social equality” nor manhood. It[Pg 26] means only the opportunity to be a man. Freedom per se brings nothing but abstract principles, but it opens the avenue for all that is grand and noble in this life and in the great hereafter. Freedom, legislative enactments and judicial adjudications cannot make men socially equal. The merit must be in the individual himself, and find a corresponding merit in some other individual. But I shall not attempt to follow out this line of thought here. I shall speak upon social contact or mixture (if I am allowed to use the word) of the races, improperly called “social equality” by some. They mean combination of races, I suppose, if they mean anything. I use mixture and combination in their broadest sense, preferring the chemical definitions. I am opposed to combination of the races in the least degree, and I see no necessity for mixture outside of business relations. I oppose it for more than one reason, which I cannot discuss here. Keep the Negro race separate and distinct, if it is desired to perpetuate its identity. The lines can not be too tightly drawn, for such lines guarantee the protection of the virtue of the colored girls of the South. The desire to mix with the whites—to marry and associate with that race—is a concession, on the part of those who have that desire, which is cringing and craven, and puts a libel upon the boast that the “Negro blood is equal to any other race”. If it is so grand and noble a race, why seek combination and mixture with any other race? But I do not put this question to you. It must be answered by those who advocate such nonsensical doctrine. We can find in our own race ample scope for the exercise of our social ambition. However, I am willing to make the following contract with the white race of the South: “We, the Negroes, agree on our part, to hang by the neck until dead, every colored man who violates the seventh commandment with a white woman, if you, the white people, will agree to punish according to law every white man who violates the seventh commandment with a colored woman. So help us God.” There is not a sensible colored man in the whole South who will not sign the contract, and I know the better class of whites, those who say least of “social equality,” will sign it for their race. Separation of the races does not mean depreciation of the merits or talents of either of them, any more than the division of States by geographical lines, or the continents, teeming[Pg 27] in varied natural wealth, divided by the great oceans, signify the underestimation of the worth of one or the other. In his famous speech upon Mars Hill, St. Paul beautifully and eloquently said: “God * * * giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Whether these bounds appointed by God be physical distinctions in the races, or whether they consist of deep oceans or towering, craggy mountains, they must be observed.
There will never be even a mixture of the races, to say nothing of combination, in this country, to any appreciable degree, even if there were an inclination on the part of both in that direction, until the condition of the Negro is changed, and I claim, paradoxical as it may appear, that when the Negro’s condition is changed by the cultivation of virtue, there will be even a less desire than now to mix and combine with the white race. In nine cases out of every ten the mixing and combining is the substratum of both races. I can not pursue this subject further at this time.
XV. The Employer.
I have confined my remarks so far to the duties of the employe. The responsibilities of the employer are even greater and more numerous. I can not speak of them at length now. The employer must have care of the health of the employe, as well as provide for him the necessaries of life while he is performing his work. The employer should ever be mindful of the general welfare of his employe. He is more than a mere medium of exchange of labor for dollars. On account of his superior knowledge, there are certain duties which the moral law requires him to discharge. To pay liberally and promptly are minor duties when compared with his general oversight of the moral and intellectual welfare of the laborer. He must not only not defraud the employe himself, but he must see that others do not take advantage of his ignorance or inexperience. He must provide suitable and comfortable homes for his workmen, having due[Pg 28] regard for the laws of health. I have in my mind three model men of Huntsville, Alabama, of this class, whose names I will be pardoned for mentioning in this connection.
Dr. J. J. Dement is so kind and upright in dealing with his tenants that they give into his hands their net cash, allowing him to keep all the accounts. This confidence can come by dealing according to moral principles, which are broader and higher than formal business rules. Col. William M. Holding is another employer, or landlord, who has stamped himself indelibly upon the hearts of his employes or tenants. He is ever mindful of their interests, and stands between them and the men who are always watching for a chance to get their hard-earned dollars by fraudulent means. Mr. Holding supplies his tenants himself at cash prices, and never charges them one cent of interest, and yet he pays as high wages and rents his lands as cheaply as any other man in the county. Hon. Edmond I. Mastin is the third model employer. He runs a brick yard. His foreman is a Negro of almost full blood. Mr. M. contracted with him to work for $25 per month, but finding the foreman constantly increasing in competency, and finding his own cash account growing larger, he voluntarily advanced the wages to $50 per month. This struck the foreman with great surprise. One of his men had mortgaged his house and lot,—this Mr. M. paid off, secured to him the property, and charged no interest. These kinds of employers and landlords understand their relations to their tenants and employes. There are hundreds of others scattered over the South, and each one is doing more to build up the country and establish and maintain confidence and friendly relations between the races than a dozen politicians. I wish all the landlords and employers in the country would carry such ethics into their business relations with their laborers.
XVI. Be a Good Citizen.
What is the object of life? It is to make society better, and thereby honor and glorify the great Maker. How can you benefit society? By making of yourself a man, as God intends you to be[Pg 29]—a good citizen, as the laws require you to be. It is not necessary, in order to be a good citizen, that genealogy shall play a part. It is of little consequence whether the Negro came from Adam, or whether he was evolved by the Darwinian theory. It does not matter whether his ancestors were the pyramid builders of Egypt, or the compatriots of Hannibal or Scipio, or whether they were the fetich worshippers of African jungles. It is not a question of comparison of the Caucasian and Negro intellectual abilities, capacities or attainments. It is not important to decide which race can dig deepest and soar highest in the sciences. These questions may be considered by anthropologists and scientists, but, for the laboring man, the main question is how to win bread—how to be a citizen. Whatever may have been your ancestry, whatever may have been their condition, is of little value to you. In this age of electricity and steam, men no longer are run on the pedigrees of their foreparents, regardless of merit. A lawyer whose only recommendation is the illustrious name of a dead progenitor, will never have clients. The physician, who pleads the excellence of a line of noble blood reaching into the far receding centuries, will find poor sale for his pills. The merchant who expects to get his inferior goods off his shelves on the credit of family name, will soon find the sheriff at his door. What would you think of a man, totally ignorant of carpentry, or masonry, or agriculture, proposing to work for you upon the worthiness of some dead relative? Be meritorious. Be a citizen of whom the State may be proud, and your ancestry will care for itself. I do not undervalue an honorable family record. It is diamond. But you must be worthy yourself.
In addition to all that I have said concerning your duties, I wish to add that no workman, no laboring man, can afford to violate the laws of the land. If laws are oppressive, you have your remedy at the ballot box, and not in evasion or violation. Government is ordained of God, and is necessary to the happiness and protection of man. No man has a right to disobey the laws of the land. Disobedience creates disorder. Disorder leads to anarchy and riot. Then who is safe? Whose property at any moment may not be destroyed? As stated above, it is not a question of the origin of the races, or a comparison of capacities, [Pg 30]but can the Negro make a good citizen? This is the problem in this connection. The answer which the Negro is giving, must be gratifying to all good men.
“Honor and shame from no condition rise,
Act well your part—there all the honor lies.”
“Victory and defeat.
Joy and grief—
‘Tis these that make the warp
And woof of human life. But
Be faithful to right and duty,
And you will have done
Something to make the whole world better.”
XVII. Well Done.
What has been done by the Negro since his emancipation to make himself an industrious, christian citizen? How well is he meeting the expectations of his friends? How successfully has he defeated the prophecies of his enemies? How is he working out his destiny? Go to the farms and the work-shops—go examine the tax-books of the country—go see the million colored boys and girls attending the industrial and other schools of the South—go count the hundreds of magnificent temples, all over the land, erected to God—go ask good men, who have informed themselves on the Negro question—go read the history of the industrial civilization of the last quarter century, and the answer will be, WELL DONE. There have been many discouragements—there have been many days as dark as the brow of midnight—as black as the curtains of hell—yet scintillations of Hope ever shot forth from the altars of religion and patriotism, which are bursting into refulgent light and heat to chase away the shadows, dispel the mist, disperse the clouds, and drive all animosities into the Red Sea of fraternal love. The asps which dropped from the head of the Medusa of slavery, are being driven out by the good St. Patrick of mutual interests and fellow-feeling. We are treading upon new ground, without the lamp of experience, or the lessons of history, to guide our feet. The conditions surrounding the races of the South are new problems in the political annals of the human family. The solution is proceeding according to the rules of Providence. Only the Negro and white man of the South can handle the crayon.[Pg 31] External intermeddling can be productive of no good. The races of the South, alone, are responsible to God—amenable to the generations of the future for the figures and calculations which are being made upon the slate of southern development. It is true that we have had our Copiahs, Carrolltons and Danvilles, but the great wonder is that these conflicts have been so few, and so small. It is a marvel that the races have maintained such amicable relations, when the former conditions and the bitterness engendered by the change of those conditions are taken into consideration. It has required the exercise of profound wisdom, great foresight, and almost supernatural patience on the part of both races to bring us where we are with such propitious environments.
A Western paper says: “The negroes of the South are rapidly solving their own problem by their religious and educational progress since their freedom. In view of the ignorance, superstition and degradation that enthralled them, we do not believe any other race on the globe has ever made more rapid progress than this people in the twenty-two years of their emancipation.”
The People’s Advocate, whose able editor is worthy authority upon Negro statistics, says: “The close of the first century of the constitution finds us after a record of twenty years, fourteen men having been in congress, a thousand men in state legislatures; to-day with 16,086 schools, 1,030,463 pupils, 22,183 in normal and high schools, academies and colleges, 1,900 studying theology, 100 reading law, 150 studying medicine; pay taxes on $150,000,000, and fully two millions are invested in business.”
When a young man, just arrived at majority, leaps beyond parental control, into the wide world of personal responsibility, it is true that his immunities are greater, but his cares have increased also. So the Negro, being clad in the habiliments of freedom, steps out of the tomb of thralldom into liberty and citizenship. But his responsibilities are in proportion to his new liberties. He has graver cares and more arduous duties than when he rose and retired at the sounding of the overseer’s horn. He must look at[Pg 32] these duties to himself, his family, his neighbor, his state and his God, calmly and in the new light which must accompany freedom in order that it may be permanent. Freedom is a contradictory term. It is a deceptive word. There is no absolute freedom in civilized society. Among civilized people freedom means restraint—restriction. The farther man is removed from barbarism, the less freedom he has, and the greater the curb and restraint upon his conduct. Obedience to law and a regard for the general interests of society are fetters stronger than the chains which bound Prometheus to the mountain rocks. When a citizen throws off this restraint, he ceases to be a healthful factor in the state. As long as the great Mississippi River is held in restraint by its banks, it floats upon its bosom the commerce of our nation, carrying joy and comfort into millions of homes. But if the great Father of Waters leaps beyond the lawful bounds he becomes harmful and destructive; or if we remove the curbs and permit the water to flow as it will, we could no longer derive the least benefit from this grandest stream in North America.
I have spoken as I think the interests of labor demand, without appealing to the prejudices or caprices of the laborer. I have endeavored to be candid, as I am sincere. I know that men, generally, do not like statements which differ from their views, though such statements be the embodiment of truth and virtue. I know, also, that the common ear leans to the titillations of flattery, however illogical and damaging.
The Negro is here to stay. He is a citizen according to forms of law. He must be, and can be, according to the light of the nineteenth century civilization. Let the past be as oblivious as the contents of an ante-deluvian reliquary. Turn the eye and the effort to the living present, and the rising sun of the future, which shall make his course across the skies of the nations, to the adjustment of all difficulties and the guidance of mankind up the broad plains of highest christian development, and the Negro shall be thrifty, intelligent, honest and faithful in all things.
Negro Vital Statistics.
It is a fact that the death rate among the colored people of the United States is greater since than before the war, and that it is far in excess of the white race, often doubling it.
Consumption and pneumonia are the diseases which are mowing down the ranks of our colored population. “In Charleston, S. C., the number of deaths from consumption for 1882-5 were 830 colored to 234 white; Memphis, Tenn., 471 colored to 323 white; Savannah, Ga., 391 colored to 212 white; Nashville, Tenn., 330 colored to 232 white. The mortality from pneumonia for the same period stands: Charleston, S. C., 219 colored to 85 white; Memphis, Tenn., 262 colored to 159 white; Savannah, Ga., 166 colored to 60 white; Nashville, Tenn., 155 colored to 100 white. The difference is also excessive in heart diseases, dropsy, scrofula, venereal diseases, and, when prevalent, from small-pox.”
“In Savannah, Ga., in 1885, 7 whites and 114 blacks died without having a physician in attendance; in 1883, 6 whites and 145 blacks. Moreover, the fact should not be ignored that numbers of negroes are also the victims of empiricism and experiment. Some poor negroes are undoubtedly sacrificed for the benefit of science.” This is the case all over the country.
Scrofula is said to be more fatal to mulattoes than to Negroes, and more deadly to both than to whites. It is seven times greater among colored than whites.
I believe, also, that the prevalence of scrofula among the Negroes is promoted by the immense quantities of meat consumed by them, to the exclusion of a sufficient quantity of vegetable food. I am led to this conclusion for two reasons: firstly, so far as I have been able to ascertain, scrofula is rarely found among the native Africans, whose diet is purely vegetable; seldom do they eat meat. Again, from a recent medical journal, I learn that the Esquimaux, whose diet is exclusively meat, usually die between the ages of 30 and 45, and among them scrofula is exceedingly prevalent.—Conrad.
The number of still births is greater among colored than whites. This is due to many causes. Among them exposure of the mother, poor living, and lack of attention during the period of gestation.
Huntsville, situated in Northern Alabama, is renowned as a healthful place. The colored people thereabouts are in fair circumstances. The death rate for the part of the year 1887 to November 1, reveals a startling disparity between the races: There were 42 deaths among the whites and 98 among the colored; 4 whites and 13 colored died of consumption; still born, 1 white and 6 colored. The colored death rate is 39 per 1000, allowing the colored population to be 3000. But it must be remembered that the winter of 1886-7 was the severest for nearly a half century.
“But the greatest disparity in the death rates of the two races is the number of deaths under five years. Here there is, indeed, in the negro race, a woful ‘slaughter of the innocents.’ The death rate of Negro children is always more than double that of the white, and from that to even four times as great.” May not the unskillful midwife have much of this laid at her door?
A well informed writer says: “More than half of the deaths under five years among Negro children, is caused by trismus nascentium.[A] To well-meaning but ignorant old women can be laid this ‘slaughter in hecatombs’ of children. Unwholesome food also has much to do with the deaths of infants and children, especially in summer. There is a woful need of training schools to educate nurses, and similar institutions throughout the South. Skilled female physicians (colored) are peculiarly fitted for lessening this infant mortality.”
Another strange thing with regard to Negro statistics is, that more women than men become nonagenarians. With the whites it is the reverse; more single males than single females die; more widows than widowers die; more females than males die of consumption; more males than females die of pneumonia. The cause of some of these facts is plain.
Only one Negro in 1,037 becomes insane, while one in every 434 whites, according to good authority.
A writer in The Sanitarian for June, 1887, says that many deaths among the Negroes are caused by indifference to personal cleanliness and medical attention—many dying without applying for medical aid. The same writer gives the following:
“In the following table is given the total death-rate per 1000,[Pg 35] and also the death-rate under five years of age, in Charleston, S. C., Savannah, Ga., Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., for the years 1883-85. The upper figures give the white rate and the next the colored:
Charleston. Memphis. Nashville. Savannah.
1883. 21.60 15.19 18.68 20.47
47.13 35.83 31.29 39.57
1884. 23.68 18.80 16.77 19.54
44.63 41.66 26.94 42.21
1885. 17.64 16.56 14.69 12.9
38.49 36.96 27.07 34.4
Rate of deaths under five years:
Charleston. Memphis. Nashville. Savannah.
1883. 5.88 3.75 5.65 7.59
21.03 13.91 12.44 18.01
1884. 6.48 4.47 5.46 6.54
16.52 15.63 11.55 16.68
1885. 4.45 4.67 4.37 4.23
14.38 13.46 10.78 13.70
“The per cent. of increase for the total population from 1870 to 1880 was 30.08—white, 29.30; black, 34.67. To show the relative increase between the two races at the South, I take from the last official census the three Southern States—Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi—which may be accepted as a fair criterion for the rest of the South. Rate of increase in these, taken as one State—white, 23.90; black, 33 per cent. It is still more apparent, in South Carolina, because it is less affected by immigration from other States, and shows more accurately the natural increase. There it is 45.33 for the blacks, and for the white population, 35 per cent.”
Comment on Negro Vital Statistics.
The foregoing facts are very startling and should arouse every intelligent Negro and every friend to the race, to devise a way by which this awful wave of death shall be checked. The history of all civilizations presents seeming unaccountable vital statistics. All races passing into civilization have increase in both birth and death rates. But the case of the Negro in the United States is one deserving profound study. It presents many seeming contrarieties, hardly met elsewhere. The question naturally arises, What shall be[Pg 36] done to check this harvest of death? Begin in the school room. Teach the children sound sanitary principles. Begin in the pulpit. Let the minister constantly call attention to this matter and advise a way out of it. Begin the work in all the societies of the race. Establish and maintain schools for nurses and to teach the general principles of housekeeping. The demand is great for competent colored male and female physicians—especially female, as the work must be largely among the women of the race. An organization for the promotion of the sanitary condition of the Negro should be started, and its work vigorously prosecuted. They must be induced to seek better houses, better clothing, better food, and have better care of their bodies. I have known men who would get up every rainy night in the year, and pull their beds from under a leak in the roof, or who would lay abed and the wife set pans and buckets on them to catch the water, rather than bestir themselves two hours in patching the roof. Then I have seen some handsome looking women, most handsomely attired in beautiful white dresses or costly cloaks, hats and feathers, and I have often wondered where they would find a decent place in their homes for those articles when they returned from their perambulations or from the church or party. The old root doctor must be driven out by the lash of the law.
The idea, advanced by some writers, of shutting the Negro up in the lower valley of the Mississippi, or his natural tendency in that direction, is narrow and illogical. Why should the Negro huddle there? I confess that a large per cent. may forever remain there, but there is no natural or legal reason for assigning the Negro any particular locality in this cosmopolitan Republic. Driving him to the unhealthful localities of certain cities is the cause of much of this unnatural death rate. God has made man to inhabit any part of this great globe, and there is no part of it in which any race can not live, though it may require generations for adaptation and acclimatement. For monetary reasons I would be glad if the Negro would not only own that whole region, but monopolize its staple production, as I have before said. But at present there is not the slightest drift in that direction.
General Vital Statistics.
From 53 to 85 per cent. of the population marry under the age of 30 years. The per cent. is lowest among rich, and highest among poor families.
Men marry at a later period than women. The average age for men is 27 9-10, for women 25 7-10 years.
There is no reason why children should die, except it be found in the violation of the laws of nature, by foreparents.
Carpenters and country laborers live longer than any other laborers.
The average life, after the commencement of intemperate habits, is 21 7-10 years for beer drinkers, 16 6-10 for spirituous liquor drinkers. It is thus seen that distilled liquors are most dangerous.
It is shown that the death rate among soldiers, even though they are well provided for and remaining in barracks, is enormous. It far surpasses civilians. Lung diseases and cholera are twice as fatal to soldiers as to civilians. This large death rate among soldiers is due to overcrowded barracks, sameness of diet, and want of healthful exercise. The mortality in the navy is nearly double that in the merchant service—all being of disease.
Mortality is affected by population, location and climate.
It is a mistaken notion that mild winters are fatal to human life. Extremes are always harmful.
Sanitary and Medical.
All dwellings should be well lighted and ventilated.
Never stop up your grate or fire place in summer.
In and around all dwellings should be kept clean, and lime should be freely used.
Do not crowd people in a room, for lung troubles will surely follow. Each person requires a certain quantity of fresh air per minute, and too many persons in the same room will cut off this necessary supply.
Take all of the out door exercise you can get, and stay as much amid the wholesome air of the country as you can.
Do not buy cheap food, because it is cheap, but always have an eye to quality. Musty meal, tainted meat and other half decayed and decaying food have carried many a person to a premature grave.
Be careful about your drinking water. Use that of the best wells and springs. Never use water which has stood over night in a bed room. It is so much poison.
See that your food is properly prepared, as health depends largely upon the observance of this rule. Boiled, stewed or roasted food is always preferable to fried. Have plenty of vegetable food, and as little animal as possible.
All bed rooms and bed clothing should be constantly thoroughly aired, whether used or not. So should parlors.
Let some member of the family thoroughly post himself on all matters pertaining to buying and cooking food, the laws of health, &c. In fact these things should be discussed daily in the family that all may understand them.
The meal hours should be the jolliest of the day. All at the table should combine in jest and joke, as well as in giving valuable suggestions and information. The children should take part also.
You can not be too careful about your dress. Have respect more for comfort than for fashion. Teach your children this principle, and it will not be long before finger and earrings, dangling chains, bracelets, and such other relics of barbarity will be thrust aside by common sense. The lowest savage bedecks his person with trinkets and gewgaws.
The average festival and night meeting where people huddle together are fruitful of disease. The inhaling of this bad air is equal to a serpent’s bite.
Carry method into your life and home. Have hours of prayer, reading, sleeping, conversation, writing, working, &c.
More people die of want of sunlight and pure air than of any other cause, even war.
When a person’s clothes catch fire, smother the fire with blankets or clothing.
From a few drops to a teaspoonful of coal oil is a splendid remedy for croup, colds in the breast and like complaints. Saturate sugar with the oil and it is easily taken.
A weak gargle of salt and water is a good remedy for sore throat.
Colds in the head may be cured by bathing the feet in very hot water and wrapping them well. A little mustard added to the water will prove beneficial.
A teaspoonful, each, of salt and mustard in water will prove effectual where poison has been swallowed. It must be taken at once.
Dash water into the eye to remove dust. Don’t rub the eye.
Burns and scalds may be relieved by dipping in cold water or flour.
If you are severely cut, tie a string tightly both below and above the wound until the doctor arrives.
Very ugly warts have been cured by small doses of sulphate of magnesia, or three grains of epsom salts taken morning and evening.
Mix 5 grains of carbolic acid and one ounce of glycerine. Rub the scalp thoroughly at night and wash out in the morning, and your worst case of dandruff will be cured.
Clean stoves when cold with any stove-polish mixed with alum water.
It is said that snuffing powdered borax up the nostrils will cure a catarrhal cold.
Ceilings that have been smoked by a kerosene lamp should be washed off with soda water.
Drain pipes and all places that are sour or impure may be cleansed with lime water or carbolic acid.
Strong lime may be used to advantage in washing bedsteads. Hot alum water is also good for this purpose.
Lemon juice and sugar, mixed very thick, is useful to relieve sore throat and coughs. It must be very acid as well as sweet.
To sweep carpets use wet newspapers wrung nearly dry and torn to pieces. The paper collects the dust but does not soil the carpet.
It is said if feather beds and pillows be left out in a drenching rain every spring and afterward exposed to the sun and air on every side until dry, they will be much freshened and lightened.
Medicine stains may be removed from silver spoons by rubbing them with a rag dipped in sulphuric acid and washing it off with soapsuds. Stains may be removed from the hands by washing them in cold water, to which a little sulphuric acid has been added; use no soap.
Some Noted Colored Women.
The Philadelphia Press, of last Sunday, contains the following concerning a few notable colored women of the country: Colored women have hardly had opportunity to do much that is sensational, but still there are several who have earned a solid reputation. The most prominent colored women in Washington, in the best sense of the word, are teachers—such women as Miss M. B. Briggs, professor of English in Howard University, a most talented woman; or Josephine T. Turpin, of the same school, who is a frequent contributor to newspapers; or Lucy Moten, who is the efficient principal of a big training school; or Mary Nalle, or Marian Shadd—all highly cultured women, respected and esteemed by those who know them. In the ranks of prominent colored women of Philadelphia, there is the skilled woman physician, Dr.[Pg 40] Caroline V. Anderson. She is the daughter of William Still, a wealthy colored merchant, and a regular graduate of the medical department of Howard University, and enjoys a big practice. Then there is Mrs. Fancy Jackson Coppin, the lecturer, who devotes most of her time to the Institute for Colored Youth, and Mrs. Gertrude Mossell, who used to conduct the women’s department on the New York Freeman, and who has written for the Philadelphia Press as well as for papers published in the interest of the Negro race. Mrs. Mossell is, also, a member of the Woman’s National Press Association. Mrs. Frances E. W. Harper, the temperance lecturer and writer, has also been a resident of Philadelphia. Among colored women who have become more or less renowned in the arts and professions, must be mentioned Mrs. Nellie Brown-Mitchell. She is a musician with a mechanical turn of mind. She has invented and patented two or three appliances now in common use by musical instructors. Equally well known in another branch of the fine arts is Edmonia Lewis, the sculptor. She is an Afro-Indian, and was born in New York state, but now has her studio in Rome, where she has plenty of commissions and has done some fine work. “The Old Arrow-Maker and his Daughter,” is one of her best known productions and is owned in England. Ida B. Wells—”Iola” whose suit for damages under the Mississippi laws for being forcibly thrust out of a passenger car in Memphis by three or four white men, brought her before the public a few years ago—is probably the best known of colored women journalists, and Mrs. M. E. Lambert, of Detroit, is a poetess of genius. There are two colored women in the ranks of the law, Miss Florence Ray, of Brooklyn, and Mrs. M. S. Cary, of Washington. There is at least one colored minister, the Rev. Mrs. Freeman, of Providence, and there has been one woman at the head of a newspaper published in the interest of Afro-Americans, Miss Carrie Bragg, who for sometime edited the Lancet at Petersburg, Va. Nor would it be difficult to pick out a dozen colored women in the country whose property in the aggregate might be expressed “on information and belief,” by seven figures. In such a list would come the Gloucesters, the rich boarding house keepers of Brooklyn; Miss Amanda Eubanks, of Rome, Ga., whose white father left her $400,000; Mrs. Mary A. Wilson, a wealthy Florida woman; Mrs. Mary Pleasants, of San Francisco, who made something more than $35,000 in government bonds, owns a ranch and has some real estate; Mrs. James Thomas, of St. Louis, who is worth something like $300,000, and whose barber shop, the “Lindell,” is the most luxuriant in the country, and Mrs. Catherine Blake, who owns the Kenmore Hotel at Albany, which is reputed worth $150,000. Miss Blake, a wealthy young colored [Pg 41]woman of Nash, N. C., has taken the prize for the best production of cotton at all the State fairs, and several other Afro-American women with ample incomes are doing solid industrial work.—Chr. Recorder.
There are many noble women throughout the South who have done great work for the race, and whose names should be added to the above number. If Dr. Simmons, who wrote that excellent book, “Men of Mark,” will get up a similar work of our “Women of Mark,” he will find fully as much meritorious material among our women as he found among the men.
[A] This statement is contradicted by Dr. M. C. Baldridge, an Alabama Health Officer. He says the number is large, but not one-half.