Appendix L. Speeches For Study And Practise. Part 2
There can be but one answer. It is the very problem we are now to consider. The key that opens that problem will unlock to the world the fairest half of this Republic, and free the halted feet of thousands whose eyes are already kindling with its beauty. Better than this, it will open the hearts of brothers for thirty years estranged, and clasp m lasting comradeship a million hands now withheld in doubt. Nothing, sir, but this problem and the suspicions it breeds, hinders a clear understanding and a perfect union. Nothing else stands between us and such love as bound Georgia and Massachusetts at Valley Forge and Yorktown, chastened by the sacrifices of Manassas and Gettysburg, and illumined with the coming of better work and a nobler destiny than was ever wrought with the sword or sought at the cannon's mouth.
If this does not invite your patient hearing to-night - hear one thing more. My people, your brothers in the South - brothers in blood, in destiny, in all that is best in our past and future - are so beset with this problem that their very existence depends on its right solution. Nor are they wholly to blame for its presence. The slave-ships of the Republic sailed from your ports, the slaves worked in our fields. You will not defend the traffic, nor I the institution. But I do here declare that in its wise and humane administration in lifting the slave to heights of which he had not dreamed in his savage home, and giving him a happiness he has not yet found in freedom, our fathers left their sons a saving and excellent heritage. In the storm of war this institution was lost. I thank God as heartily as you do that human slavery is gone forever from American soil. But the freedman remains. With him, a problem without precedent or parallel. Note its appalling conditions. Two utterly dissimilar races on the same soil - with equal political and civil rights - almost equal in numbers, but terribly unequal in intelligence and responsibility - each pledged against fusion - one for a century in servitude to the other, and freed at last by a desolating war, the experiment sought by neither but approached by both with doubt - these are the conditions. Under these, adverse at every point, we are required to carry these two races in peace and honor to the end.
Never, sir, has such a task been given to mortal stewardship. Never before in this Republic has the white race divided on the rights of an alien race. The red man was cut down as a weed because he hindered the way of the American citizen. The yellow man was shut out of this Republic because he is an alien, and inferior. The red man was owner of the land - the yellow man was highly civilized and assimilable - but they hindered both sections and are gone! But the black man, affecting but one section, is clothed with every privilege of government and pinned to the soil, and my people commanded to make good at any hazard, and at any cost, his full and equal heirship of American privilege and prosperity. It matters not that every other race has been routed or excluded without rhyme or reason. It matters not that wherever the whites and the blacks have touched, in any era or in any clime, there has been an irreconcilable violence. It matters not that no two races, however similar, have lived anywhere, at any time, on the same soil with equal rights in peace! In spite of these things we are commanded to make good this change of American policy which has not perhaps changed American prejudice - to make certain here what has elsewhere been impossible between whites and blacks - and to reverse, under the very worst conditions, the universal verdict of racial history. And driven, sir, to this superhuman task with an impatience that brooks no delay - a rigor that accepts no excuse - and a suspicion that discourages frankness and sincerity. We do not shrink from this trial. It is so interwoven with our industrial fabric that we cannot disentangle it if we would - so bound up in our honorable obligation to the world, that we would not if we could. Can we solve it? The God who gave it into our hands, He alone can know. But this the weakest and wisest of us do know: we cannot solve it with less than your tolerant and patient sympathy - with less than the knowledge that the blood that runs in your veins is our blood - and that, when we have done our best, whether the issue be lost or won, we shall feel your strong arms about us and hear the beating of your approving hearts!
The resolute, clear-headed, broad-minded men of the South - the men whose genius made glorious every page of the first seventy years of American history - whose courage and fortitude you tested in five years of the fiercest war - whose energy has made bricks without straw and spread splendor amid the ashes of their war-wasted homes - these men wear this problem in their hearts and brains, by day and by night. They realize, as you cannot, what this problem means - what they owe to this kindly and dependent race - the measure of their debt to the world in whose despite they defended and maintained slavery. And though their feet are hindered in its undergrowth, and their march cumbered with its burdens, they have lost neither the patience from which comes clearness, nor the faith from which comes courage. Nor, sir, when in passionate moments is disclosed to them that vague and awful shadow, with its lurid abysses and its crimson stains, into which I pray God they may never go, are they struck with more of apprehension than is needed to complete their consecration!
Such is the temper of my people. But what of the problem itself? Mr. President, we need not go one step further unless you concede right here that the people I speak for are as honest, as sensible and as just as your people, seeking as earnestly as you would in their place to rightly solve the problem that touches them at every vital point. If you insist that they are ruffians, blindly striving with bludgeon and shotgun to plunder and oppress a race, then I shall sacrifice my self-respect and tax your patience in vain. But admit that they are men of common sense and common honesty, wisely modifying an environment they cannot wholly disregard - guiding and controlling as best they can the vicious and irresponsible of either race - compensating error with frankness, and retrieving in patience what they lost in passion - and conscious all the time that wrong means ruin - admit this, and we may reach an understanding to-night.