Black and White: Land, Labor, and Politics in the South
By T. Thomas Fortune. New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert. 1884. 234-242.
Chapter XVI. Conclusion.
I know it is not fashionable for writers on economic questions to tell the truth; but the truth should be told, though it kill. When the wail of distress encircles the world, the man who is linked by “the one touch of nature” which “makes the whole world kin” to the common destiny of the race universal; who hates injustice wherever it lifts up its head; who sympathizes with the distressed, the weak, and the friendless in every corner of the globe, such a man is morally bound to tell the truth as he conceives it to be the truth.
In these times, when the law-making and enforcing authority is leagued against the people; when great periodicals—monthly, weekly and daily—echo the mandates or anticipate the wishes of the powerful men who produce our social demoralization, it becomes necessary for the few men who do not agree to the arguments advanced or the interests sought to be bolstered up, to “cry aloud and spare not.” The man who with the truth in his possession flatters with lies, that “thrift may follow fawning” is too vile to merit the contempt of honest men.
The government of the United States confiscated as “contraband of war” the slave population of the South, but if left to the portion of the unrepentant rebel a far more valuable species of property. The slave, the perishable wealth, was confiscated to the government and then manumitted; but property in land, the wealth which perishes not nor can fly away, and which had made the institution of slavery possible, was left as the heritage of the robber who had not hesitated to lift his iconoclastic hand against the liberties of his country. The barons of feudal Europe would have been paralyzed with astonishment at the leniency of the conquering invader who should take from him his slave, subject to mutation, and leave him his landed possessions which are as fixed as the Universe of Nature. He would ask no more advantageous concession. But the United States took the slave and left the thing which gave birth to chattel slavery and which is now fast giving birth to industrial slavery; a slavery more excruciating in its exactions, more irresponsible in its machinations than that other slavery, which I once endured. The chattel slave-holder must, to preserve the value of his property, feed, clothe and house his property, and give it proper medical attention when disease or accident threatened its life. But industrial slavery requires no such care. The new slave-holder is only solicitous of obtaining the maximum of labor for the minimum of cost. He does not regard the man as of any consequence when he can no longer produce. Having worked him to death, or ruined his constitution and robbed him of his labor, he turns him out upon the world to live upon the charity of mankind or to die of inattention and starvation. He knows that it profits him nothing to waste time and money upon a disabled industrial slave. The multitude of laborers from which he can recruit his necessary laboring force is so enormous that solicitude on his part for one that falls by the wayside would be a gratuitous expenditure of humanity and charity which the world is too intensely selfish and materialistic to expect of him. Here he forges wealth and death at one and the same time. He could not do this if our social system did not confer upon him a monopoly of the soil from which subsistence must be derived, because the industrial slave, given an equal opportunity to produce for himself, would not produce for another. On the other hand, the large industrial operations, with the multitude of laborers from which Adam Smith declares employers grow rich, as far as this applies to the soil, would not be possible, since the vast volume of increased production brought about by the industry of the multitude of co-equal small farmers would so reduce the cost price of food products as to destroy the incentive to speculation in them, and at the same time utterly destroy the necessity or the possibility of famines, such as those which have from time to time come upon the Irish people. There could be no famine, in the natural course of things, where all had an opportunity to cultivate as much land as they could wherever they found any not already under cultivation by some one else. It needs no stretch of the imagination to see what a startling tendency the announcement that all vacant land was free to settlement upon condition of cultivation would have to the depopulation of over-crowded cities like New York, Baltimore and Savannah, where the so-called pressure of population upon subsistence has produced a hand-to-hand fight for existence by the wage-workers in every avenue of industry.
This is no fancy picture. It is a plain logical deduction of what would result from the restoration of the people of that equal chance in the race of life which every man has a right to expect, to demand, and to exact as a condition of his membership of organized society.
The wag who started the “forty acres and a mule” idea among the black people of the South was a wise fool; wise in that he enunciated a principle which every argument of sound policy should have dictated, upon the condition that the forty acres could in no wise be alienated, and that it could be regarded only as property as long as it was cultivated; and a fool because he designed simply to impose upon the credulity and ignorance of his victims. But the justness of the “forty acre” donation cannot be controverted. In the first place, the slave had earned this miserable stipend from the government by two hundred years of unrequited toil; and, secondly, as a free man, he was inherently entitled to so much of the soil of his country as would suffice to maintain him in the freedom thrust upon him. To tell him he was a free man, and at the same time shut him off from free access to the soil upon which he had been reared, without a penny in his pocket, and with an army of children at his coat-tail—some of his reputed wife’s children being the illegitimate offspring of a former inhuman master—was to add insult to injury, to mix syrup and hyssop, to aggravate into curses the pretended conference of blessings.
When I think of the absolutely destitute condition of the colored people of the South at the close of the Rebellion; when I remember the moral and intellectual enervation which slavery had produced in them; when I remember that not only were they thus bankrupt, but that they were absolutely and unconditionally cut off from the soil, with absolutely no right or title in it, I am surprised,—not that they have already got a respectable slice of landed interests; not that they have taken hold eagerly of the advantages of moral and intellectual opportunities of development placed in their reach by the charitable philanthropy of good men and women; not that they have bought homes and supplied them with articles of convenience and comfort, often of luxury,—but I am surprised that the race did not turn robbers and highwaymen, and, in turn, terrorize and rob society as society had for so long terrorized and robbed them. The thing is strange, marvelous, phenomenal in the extreme. Instead of becoming outlaws, as the critical condition would seem to have indicated, the black men of the South went manfully to work to better their own condition and the crippled condition of the country which had been produced by the ravages of internecine rebellion; while the white men of the South, the capitalists, the land-sharks, the poor white trash, and the nondescripts, with a thousand years of Christian civilization and culture behind them, with “the boast of chivalry, the pomp of power,” these white scamps, who had imposed upon the world the idea that they were paragons of virtue and the heaven-sent viceregents of civil power, organized themselves into a band of outlaws, whose concatenative chain of auxilitaries ran through the entire South, and deliberately proceeded to murder innocent men and women for POLITICAL REASONS and to systematically rob them of their honest labor because they were too accursedly lazy to labor themselves.
But this highly abnormal, unnatural condition of things is fast passing away. The white man having asserted his superiority in the matters of assassination and robbery, has settled down upon a barrel of dynamite, as he did in the days of slavery, and will await the explosion with the same fatuity and self-satisfaction true of him in other days. But as convulsions from within are more violent and destructive than convulsions from without, being more deep-seated and therefore more difficult to reach, the next explosion will be more disastrous, more far-reaching in its havoc than the one which metamorphosed social conditions in the South, and from the dreadful reactions of which we are just now recovering.
As I have said elsewhere, the future struggle in the South will be, not between white men and black men, but between capital and labor, land-lord and tenant. Already the cohorts are marshalling to the fray; already the forces are mustering to the field at the sound of the slogan.
The same battle will be fought upon Southern soil that is in preparation in other states where the conditions are older in development but no more deep-seated, no more pernicious, no more blighting upon the industries of the country and the growth of the people.
It is not my purpose here to enter into an extended analysis of the foundations upon which our land system rests, nor to give my views as to how matters might be remedied. I may take up the question at some future time. It is sufficient for my purpose to have indicated that the social problems in the South, as they exfoliate more and more as resultant upon the war, will be found to be the same as those found in every other section of our country; and to have pointed out that the questions of “race,” “condition” “politics,” etc., will all properly adjust themselves with the advancement of the people in wealth, education, and forgetfulness of the unhappy past.
The hour is approaching when the laboring classes of our country, North, East, West and South, will recognize that they have a common cause, a common humanity, and a common enemy; and that, therefore, if they would triumph over wrong and place the laurel wreath upon triumphant justice, without distinction of race or of previous condition they must unite! And unite they will, for “a fellow feeling makes us wond’rous kind.” When the issue is properly joined, the rich, be they black or be they white, will be found upon the same side; and the poor, be they black or be they white, will be found on the same side.
Necessity knows no law and discriminates in favor of no man or race.
But nowadays they have manufactured "Necessity has no law." "I require money, somehow or other I must have it and let me adopt this means, that means." The hypocrisy life will not make one advanced in spiritual life.
Real mother and guru-patni, the wife of spiritual master or teacher. Ādau mātā guru-patni, brāhmaṇi, the wife of a brāhmaṇa, and rāja-patnikā, the queen, she is also mother, rāja. Dhenu, cow. Dhenu, dhātrī, nurse. Dhenur dhātrī tathā pṛthvī, as well as the earth. Earth is mother because she is giving us so many things, fruits, flowers, grains for our eating. Mother gives for eating, cow gives us milk. This is sense. But if one becomes addicted to prostitute hunting then he will be fallen. That is the example. Then he'll become thief, rascal, cheater, drunkard, and so on, so on, so on. Why? Now, only for maintaining the family. The family maintenance, the cats and dogs, they also do, the birds also do, but they do not do anything unnatural. The bird maintains his children, brings some fruit or something in the mouth and push into mouth of the small kiddies. That is natural. But why one should take unfair means for maintaining family? This is culture. This is culture. But nowadays they have manufactured "Necessity has no law." "I require money, somehow or other I must have it and let me adopt this means, that means." No. So evaṁ nivasatas tasya lālayānasya. Lālayānasya tat-sutān. So without understanding what is the duty of human being, because he is fallen... We should not bother for maintaining our family and children till the time of death. No. Up to twenty-five years. A brahmacārī is trained to refrain from sex life, that is brahmacārī, celibacy. But if he is still not able, then he is allowed to accept gṛhastha life. There is no cheating, hypocrisy, that I proclaim myself as brahmacārī or sannyāsī and I secretly do all nonsense. This is hypocrisy. The hypocrisy life will not make one advanced in spiritual life.