Appendix L. Speeches For Study And Practise. Part 4
But it is claimed that under this fair seeming there is disorder and violence. This I admit. And there will be until there is one ideal community on earth after which we may pattern. But how widely is it misjudged! It is hard to measure with exactness whatever touches the negro. His helplessness, his isolation, his century of servitude, - these dispose us to emphasise and magnify his wrongs. This disposition, inflamed by prejudice and partisanry, has led to injustice and delusion. Lawless men may ravage a county in Iowa and it is accepted as an incident - in the South, a drunken row is declared to be the fixed habit of the community. Regulators may whip vagabonds in Indiana by platoons and it scarcely arrests attention - a chance collision in the South among relatively the same classes is gravely accepted as evidence that one race is destroying the other. We might as well claim that the Union was ungrateful to the colored soldier who followed its flag because a Grand Army post in Connecticut closed its doors to a negro veteran as for you to give racial significance to every incident in the South, or to accept exceptional grounds as the rule of our society. I am not one of those who becloud American honor with the parade of the outrages of either section, and belie American character by declaring them to be significant and representative. I prefer to maintain that they are neither, and stand for nothing but the passion and sin of our poor fallen humanity. If society, like a machine, were no stronger than its weakest part, I should despair of both sections. But, knowing that society, sentient and responsible in every fiber, can mend and repair until the whole has the strength of the best, I despair of neither. These gentlemen who come with me here, knit into Georgia's busy life as they are, never saw, I dare assert, an outrage committed on a negro! And if they did, no one of you would be swifter to prevent or punish. It is through them, and the men and women who think with them - making nine-tenths of every Southern community - that these two races have been carried thus far with less of violence than would have been possible anywhere else on earth. And in their fairness and courage and steadfastness - more than in all the laws that can be passed, or all the bayonets that can be mustered - is the hope of our future.
When will the blacks cast a free ballot? When ignorance anywhere is not dominated by the will of the intelligent; when the laborer anywhere casts a vote unhindered by his boss; when the vote of the poor anywhere is not influenced by the power of the rich; when the strong and the steadfast do not everywhere control the suffrage of the weak and shiftless - then, and not till then, will the ballot of the negro be free. The white people of the South are banded, Mr. President, not in prejudice against the blacks - not in sectional estrangement - not in the hope of political dominion - but in a deep and abiding necessity. Here is this vast ignorant and purchasable vote - clannish, credulous, impulsive, and passionate - tempting every art of the demagogue, but insensible to the appeal of the stateman. Wrongly started, in that it was led into alienation from its neighbor and taught to rely on the protection of an outside force, it cannot be merged and lost in the two great parties through logical currents, for it lacks political conviction and even that information on which conviction must be based. It must remain a faction - strong enough in every community to control on the slightest division of the whites. Under that division it becomes the prey of the cunning and unscrupulous of both parties. Its credulity is imposed upon, its patience inflamed, its cupidity tempted, its impulses misdirected - and even its superstition made to play its part in a campaign in which every interest of society is jeopardized and every approach to the ballot-box debauched. It is against such campaigns as this - the folly and the bitterness and the danger of which every Southern community has drunk deeply - that the white people of the South are banded together. Just as you in Massachusetts would be banded if 300,000 men, not one in a hundred able to read his ballot - banded in race instinct, holding against you the memory of a century of slavery, taught by your late conquerors to distrust and oppose you, had already travestied legislation from your State House, and in every species of folly or villainy had wasted your substance and exhausted your credit.
But admitting the right of the whites to unite against this tremendous menace, we are challenged with the smallness of our vote. This has long been flippantly charged to be evidence and has now been solemnly and officially declared to be proof of political turpitude and baseness on our part. Let us see. Virginia - a state now under fierce assault for this alleged crime - cast in 1888 seventy-five per cent of her vote; Massachusetts, the State in which I speak, sixty per cent of her vote. Was it suppression in Virginia and natural causes in Massachusetts? Last month Virginia cast sixty-nine per cent of her vote; and Massachusetts, fighting in every district, cast only forty-nine per cent of hers. If Virginia is condemned because thirty-one per cent of her vote was silent, how shall this State escape, in which fifty-one per cent was dumb? Let us enlarge this comparison. The sixteen Southern States in '88 cast sixty-seven per cent of their total vote - the six New England States but sixty-three per cent of theirs. By what fair rule shall the stigma be put upon one section while the other escapes? A congressional election in New York last week, with the polling place in touch of every voter, brought out only 6,000 votes of 28,000 - and the lack of opposition is assigned as the natural cause. In a district in my State, in which an opposition speech has not been heard in ten years and the polling places are miles apart - under the unfair reasoning of which my section has been a constant victim - the small vote is charged to be proof of forcible suppression. In Virginia an average majority of 12,000, unless hopeless division of the minority, was raised to 42,000; in Iowa, in the same election, a majority of 32,000 was wiped out and an opposition majority of 8,000 was established. The change of 40,000 votes in Iowa is accepted as political revolution - in Virginia an increase of 30,000 on a safe majority is declared to be proof of political fraud.