Some War Scenes Revisited

“I could not find even the wall which one of our men clambered over, loading and firing with a goose captured between his legs. Only the blue sky and the soft air, the lovely atmosphere of Florida, remained … It seemed as if I were the only man left on earth to recall it.”

Nothing in actual life can come so near the experience of Rip Van Winkle as to revisit war scenes after a dozen years of peace. Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, when she finds herself dwarfed after eating the clover leaf, do not surpass the sense of insignificance that comes over any one who once wore uniform when he enters, as a temporary carpet-bagger, some city which he formerly ruled or helped to rule with absolute sway. An ex-commander of colored troops has this advantage, that the hackmen and longshore-men may remember him if nobody else does; and he at once possesses that immense practical convenience which comes only from a personal acquaintance with what are called the humbler classes. In a strange place, if one can establish relations with a black waiter or a newspaper correspondent, all doors fly open. The patronage of the great is powerless in comparison.

When I had last left Jacksonville, Florida, in March, 1864, the town was in flames: the streets were full of tongues of fire creeping from house to house; the air was dense with lurid smoke. Our steamers dropped rapidly down the river, laden to the gunwale with the goods of escaping inhabitants. The black soldiers, guiltless of all share in the flames, were yet excited by the occasion, recalled their favorite imagery of the Judgment Day, and sang and shouted without ceasing. I never saw a wilder scene. Fourteen years after, the steamboat came up to the same wharf, and I stepped quietly ashore into what seemed a summer watering-place: the roses were in bloom, the hotel verandas were full of guests, there were gay shops in the street, the wharves were covered with merchandise and with people. The delicious air was the same, the trees were the same; all else was changed. The earth-works we had built were leveled and overgrown; there was a bridge at the ford we used to picket; the church in whose steeple we built a lookout was still there, but it had a new tower, planned for peaceful purposes only. The very railroad along which we skirmished almost daily was now torn up, and a new track entered the town at a different point. I could not find even the wall which one of our men clambered over, loading and firing with a goose captured between his legs. Only the blue sky and the soft air, the lovely atmosphere of Florida, remained; the distant line of woods had the same outlook, and when the noon guns began to be fired for Washington’s birth day I could hardly convince myself that the roar was net that of our gunboats, still shelling the woods as they had done so many years before. Then the guns ceased; the past withdrew into yet deeper remoteness. It seemed as if I were the only man left on earth to recall it. An hour later, the warm grasp of some of my old soldiers dispelled the dream of oblivion.

I had a less vivid sense of change at Beaufort, South Carolina, so familiar to many during the war. The large white houses still look peacefully down the placid river, but there are repairs and paint everywhere, and many new houses or cabins have been built. There is a new village, called Port Royal, at the railroad terminus, about a mile from my first camp at Old Fort plantation; and there is also a station near Beaufort itself, approached by a fine shell-road. The fortifications on the old shell-road have almost disappeared; the freedmen’s village near them, named after the present writer, blew away one day in a tornado, and returned no more. A great national cemetery is established near its site. There are changes enough, and yet the general effect of the town is unaltered; there is Northern energy there, and the discovery of valuable phosphates has opened a new branch of industry but after all it is the same pleasant old sleepy Beaufort, and no military Rip Van Winkle need feel himself too rudely aroused.

However, I went South not to see places, but people. On the way from Washington I lingered for a day or two to visit some near kinsfolk in Virginia, formerly secessionists to a man, or, to be more emphatic, to a woman. Then I spent a Sunday in Richmond, traversed rapidly part of North Carolina and Georgia, spent a day and two nights in Charleston, two days at Beaufort, and visited various points in Florida, going as far as St. Augustine. I had not set foot in the Southern States for nearly. fourteen years, but I remembered them vividly across that gap of time, and also recalled very distinctly a winter visit to Virginia during college days. With these memories ever present, it was to me a matter of great interest to observe the apparent influence of freedom on the colored people, and the relation between them and the whites.

And first, as to the material condition of the former slaves. Sydney Smith, revisiting Edinburgh in 1821 after ten years’ absence, was struck with the “wonderful increase of shoes and stockings, streets and houses.” The change as to the first item, in South Carolina, tells the story of social progress since emancipation. The very first of my old acquaintances whom I met in that region was the robust wife of one of my soldiers. I found her hoeing in a field, close beside our old camp-ground. I had seen that woman hoeing in the same field fifteen years before. The same sky was above her, the same soil beneath her feet; but the war was over, slavery was gone. The soil that had been her master’s was now her own by purchase; and the substantial limbs that trod it were no longer bare and visibly black, but incased in red-striped stockings of the most conspicuous design. “Think of it!” I said to a clever Massachusetts damsel in Washington, “the whole world so changed, and yet that woman still hoes.” “In hose,” quoth the lively maiden; and I preserve for posterity the condensed epigram.

Besides the striped stockings, which are really so conspicuous that the St. Augustine light-house is painted to match them, one sees a marked, though moderate progress in all the comforts of life. Formerly the colored people of the sea islands, even in their first days of freedom, slept very generally on the floor; and when our regimental hospital was first fitted up, the surgeon found with dismay that the patients had regarded the beds as merely beautiful ornaments, and had unanimously laid themselves down in the intervening spaces. Now I noticed bedstead and bedding in every cabin I visited in South Carolina and Florida. Formerly the cabins often had no tables, and families rarely ate together, each taking food as was convenient; but now they seemed to have family meals, a step toward decent living. This progress they themselves recognized. Moreover, I often saw pictures from the illustrated papers on the wall, and the children’s school-books on the shelf. I rarely met an ex-soldier who did not own his house and ground, the inclosures varying from five to two hundred acres; and I found one man on the St. John’s who had been offered $3000 for his real estate. In many eases these homesteads had been bought within a few years, showing a steady progress in self-elevation.

I do not think the world could show a finer sample of self-respecting peasant life than a colored woman, with whom I came down the St. John’s River to Jacksonville, from one of the little settlements along that magnificent stream. She was a freed slave, the wife of a former soldier, and was going to market, basket in hand, with her little boy by her side. She had the tall erect figure, clear black skin, thin features, fine teeth, and intelligent bearing that marked so many of my Florida soldiers. She was dressed very plainly, but with scrupulous cleanliness: a rather faded gingham dress, well-worn tweed sack, shoes and stockings, straw hat with plain black ribbon, and neat white collar and cuffs. She told me that she and her husband owned one hundred and sixty acres of land, bought and paid for by their own earnings, at $1.25 per acre; they had a log-house, and were going to build a frame-house; they raised for themselves all the food they needed, except meat and flour, which they bought in Jacksonville. They had a church within reach (Baptist); a school-house of forty pupils, taught by a colored teacher; her husband belonged to the Good Templars, as did all the men in their neighborhood. For miles along the St. John’s, a little back from the river, such settlements are scattered; the men cultivating their own plots of ground, or working on the steam-boats, or fishing, or lumbering. What more could be expected of any race, after fifteen years of freedom? Are the Irish voters of New York their superiors in condition, or the factory operatives of Fall River?

I met perhaps a hundred men, in different places, who had been under my command, and whose statements I could trust. Only one of these complained of poverty; and he, as I found, earned good wages, had neither wife nor child to support, and was given to whisky. There were sonic singular instances of prosperity among these men. I was told in Jacksonville that I should find Corporal McGill “de most populous man in Beaufort.” When I got there, I found him the proprietor of a livery stable populous with horses at any rate; he was worth $3000 or $4000, arid was cordial and hospitable to the last degree. At parting, he drove me to the station with his best carriage and horses; and I regret to add that while he was refusing all compensation his young steeds ran away, and as the train whirled off I saw my populous corporal double-quick down the shell-road, to recapture his equipage. I found Sergeant Hodges a master carpenter at Jacksonville; Corporal Hicks was a preacher there, highly respected; and I heard of Corporal Sutton as a traveling minister farther up the river. Sergeant Shemeltella, a fine-looking half-Spaniard from St. Augustine, now patrols, with gun in hand, the woods which we once picketed at Port Royal Ferry, and supplies game to the markets of Charleston and Savannah. And without extending the list I may add that some of these men, before attaining prosperity, had to secure, by the severest experience, the necessary judgment in business affairs. It will hardly be believed that the men of my regiment alone sunk $30,000 in an impracticable building association, and in the purchase of a steamboat which was lost uninsured. One of the shrewdest among them, after taking his share of this, resolved to be prudent, put $750 in the Freedmen’s Bank, and lost that too. Their present prosperity must be judged in the light of such formidable calamities as these.

I did not hear a single charge of laziness made against the freed colored people in the States I visited. In Virginia it was admitted that they would work wherever they were paid, but that many were idle for want of employment. Rev. Dr. Pinckney, in a recent address before the Charleston Historical Society, declares that the negroes “do not refuse to work all are planting;” and he only complains that they work unskillfully. A rice-planter in Georgia told me that he got his work done more efficiently than under the slave system. Men and women worked well for seventy-five cents a day; many worked under contract, which at first they did not understand or like. On the other hand, he admitted, the planters did not at once learn how to manage them as freedmen, but had acquired the knowledge by degrees; so that even the strikes at harvest-time, which had at first embarrassed them, were now avoided. Another Georgia planter spoke with much interest of an effort now making by the colored people in Augusta to establish a cotton factory of their own, in emulation of the white factories which have there been so successful. He said that this proposed factory was to have a capital of fifty thousand dollars in fifty dollar shares, and that twenty-eight thousand dollars of it were already raised. The white business agent of one of the existing factories was employed, he said, as the adviser of those organizing this. He spoke of it with interest as a proper outlet for the industry of the better class of colored people, who were educated rather above field labor. He also spoke with pride of the normal school for colored people at Atlanta.

The chief of police in Beaufort, South Carolina, a colored man, told me that the colored population there required but little public assistance, though two thousand of them had removed from the upper parts of the State within a year and a half, thinking they could find better wages at Beaufort. This removal struck me as being of itself a favorable indication, showing that they were now willing to migrate, whereas they were once hopelessly fixed to the soil, and therefore too much in the power of the land owners. The new industry of digging phosphates for exportation to England employs a good many in Beaufort County, and they earn by this from seventy-five cents to a dollar a day. Others are employed in loading vessels at the new settlement of Port Royal; but the work is precarious and insufficient, and I was told that if they made two dollars a week they did well. But it must he remembered that they have mostly little patches of land of their own, and can raise for themselves the corn and vegetables on which they chiefly live. I asked an old man if he could supply his family from his own piece of ground. “Oh, yes, mars’r,” he said (the younger men do not say “mars’r,” but “boss”), and then he went on, with a curious accumulation of emphasis: “I raise plenty too, much more dan I destroy,” — meaning simply “very much more.”

The price of cotton is now very low, and the sea-island cotton has lost forever, perhaps, its place in the English market. Yet Rev. Dr. Pinckney, in the address just quoted, while lamenting the ravages of war in the sea islands, admits that nearly half as much cotton was raised in them in 1875 as in 1860, and more than half as much corn, the population being about the same, and the area cultivated less than one third. To adopt his figures, the population in 1860 was 40,053; acres under cultivation, 274,015; corn, 618,959 bushels; cotton, 19,121 bales. In 1875 the population was 43,060; acres under cultivation, 86,449; corn, 314,271 bushels; cotton, 8199 bales.

When we consider the immense waste of war, the destruction of capital, the abandonment of estates by those who yet refuse to sell them, and the partial introduction of industry other than agricultural, this seems to me a promising exhibit. And when we observe how much more equitable than formerly is now the distribution of the products between capitalist and laborer, the case is still better. Dr. Pinckney’s utmost complaint in regard to South Carolina is that the result of the war “has been injurious to the whites, and not beneficial to the blacks.” Even he, a former slave-holder, does not claim that it has injured the blacks; and this, from his point of view, is quite a concession. Twenty years hence he may admit that whatever the result of war may have been, that of peace will be beneficial to both races.

In observing a lately emancipated race, it is always harder to judge as to the condition of the women than of the men, especially where the men alone have been enfranchised. My friend the judge, in Virginia, declared that the colored men and women were there so unlike that they seemed like different races: the men had behaved “admirably,” he said; the women were almost hopelessly degraded. On the other hand, my white friends of both sexes at Beaufort took just the opposite view, and thought the women there quite superior to the men, especially in respect to whisky. Perhaps the influences of the two regions may have made the difference, as the sea islands have had the presence, ever since the beginning of the war, of self-devoted and well-educated teachers, mostly women, while such teachers have been much rarer in Virginia. They have also been rare in Florida; but then the Florida negroes are a superior class.

Certainly it was pleasant to me to hear favorable accounts of this and that particular colored woman of whom I had known something in war times. Almost the first old acquaintance named to me on the sea islands, for instance, was one Venus, whose marriage to a soldier of my regiment I chronicled in war times. “Now, cunnel,” said that soldier in confidence, “I want for get me one good lady.” And when I asked one of his friends about the success of the effort, he said triumphantly, “John’s gwine for marry Venus.” Now the record of Venus as a good lady was so very questionable in her earlier incarnations that the name was not encouraging; but I was delighted to hear of the goddess, fifteen years later, as a most virtuous wife and a very efficient teacher of sewing in Miss Botume’s school. Her other sewing-teacher, by the way, is Juno.

I went into schools, here and there; the colored people seemed to value them very much, and to count upon their own votes as a means of securing these advantages, instead of depending, as formerly, on Northern aid. The schools I visited did not seem to me so good as those kept by Northern ladies during the war, at Port Royal; but the present schools form a part of a public system, and are in that respect better, while enough of the Northern teachers still remain to exert a beneficial influence, at least on the sea islands. I was sorry to be in Charleston only on Saturday, when the Shaw Memorial School was not in session. This is a large wooden building, erected on land bought with part of a fund collected in the colored regiments for a monument to Colonel Shaw. This school has an average attendance of five hundred and twenty, with twelve teachers, white and black. The Morris Street School for colored children, in Charleston, has fourteen hundred pupils. These two schools occupy nearly half of the four columns given by the Charleston News and Courier of April 12, 1878, to the annual exhibition of public schools. The full programme of exercises is given, with the names of the pupils receiving prizes and honors; and it seems almost incredible that the children whose successes are thus proudly recorded can be the sons and daughters of freed slaves. And I hold it utterly ungenerous, in view of such facts, to declare that the white people of the South have learned nothing by experience, and are “incapable of change.”

Public officials at Beaufort told me that in that place most of the men could now sign their names, — certainly a great proof of progress since war times. I found some of my friends anxious lest school should unfit the young people for the hard work of the field; but I saw no real proof of this, nor did the parents confirm it. Miss Botume, however, said that the younger women now thought that, after marriage, they ought to be excused from field labor, if they took care of their homes and children; a proposal so directly in the line of advancing civilization that one can hardly object to it. The great solicitude of some of the teachers in that region relates to the passage of some congressional bill which shall set aside the tax sales under which much real estate is now held; but others think that there is no fear of this, even under a democratic administration.

This leads naturally to the question, What is to be the relation between the two races in those Southern States of which I speak? I remember that Corporal Simon Crier, one of the oddities of my regiment, used to declare that when the war was over, he should go to “Libery;” and, when pressed for a reason, used to say, “Dese yer secesh will neber be cibilized in my time.” Yet Simon Crier’s time is not ended, for I heard of him as peacefully dwelling near Charleston, and taking no part in that insignificant colonization movement of which we hear so much more at the North than at the South. Taking civilization in his sense, — a fair enough sense, — we shall find Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida holding an intermediate position; being probably behind North Carolina, West Virginia, and the border States, but decidedly in advance of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

It is certain that there is, in the States I visited, a condition of outward peace and no conspicuous outrages; and that this has now been the case for many months. All will admit that this state of things must be a blessing, unless there lies beneath it some covert plan for crushing or reënslaving the colored race. I know that a few good men at the North honestly believe in the existence of some such plan; I can only say that I thoroughly disbelieve in it. Taking the nature of the Southern whites as these very men describe it, — impulsive and ungoverned, — it is utterly inconceivable that such a plan, if formed, should not show itself in some personal ill usage of the blacks, in the withdrawal of privileges, in legislation endangering their rights. I can assert that, carrying with me the eyes of a tolerably suspicious abolitionist, I saw none of these indications. During the war, I could hardly go anywhere within the Union lines for twenty-four hours without being annoyed by some sign of race hostility, or being obliged to interfere for the protection of some abused man or woman. During this trip, I had absolutely no occasion for any such attitude. The change certainly has not resulted from any cringing demeanor on the part of the blacks, for they show much more manhood than they once did. I am satisfied that it results from the changed feeling created towards a race of freedmen and voters. How can we ask more of the States formerly in rebellion than that they should be abreast of New England in granting rights and privileges to the colored race? Yet this is now the case in the three States I name; or at least if they fall behind at some points, they lead at some points. Let us look at a few instances.

The republican legislature of Connecticut has just refused to incorporate a colored military company; but the colored militia regiment of Charleston was reviewed by General Hampton and his staff just before my visit. One of the colored officers told me that there was absolutely no difference in the treatment accorded this regiment and that shown toward the white militia, who were reviewed the day before; and Messrs. Whipper and Jones, the only dissatisfied republican leaders whom I saw, admitted that there was no opposition whatever to this arming of the blacks. I may add that while I was in Virginia a bill was reported favorably in the legislature for the creation of a colored militia company, called the State Guard, under control of their own officers, and reporting directly to the adjutant-general.

I do not know a Northern city which enrolls colored citizens in its police, though this may here and there have happened. I saw colored policemen in Charleston, Beaufort, and Jacksonville, though the former city is under democratic control; and I was told by a leading colored man that the number had lately been increased in Charleston, and that one lieutenant of police was of that race. The republican legislature of Rhode Island has just refused once more to repeal the bill prohibiting intermarriages, while the legislature of South Carolina has re fused to pass such a bill. I can remember when Frederick Douglas was ejected from the railway cars in Massachusetts, because of his complexion; and it is not many years since one of the most cultivated and lady-like colored teachers in the nation was ejected from a street car in Philadelphia, her birthplace, for the same reason. But I rode with colored people in first-class cars throughout Virginia and South Carolina, and in street ears in Richmond and Charleston. I am told that this last is the case also in Savannah and New Orleans, but can testify only to what I have seen. In Georgia, I was told, the colored people were not allowed in first-class cars; but they had always a decent second-class car, opening from the smoking-car, with the door usually closed between.

All these things maybe true, and still a great deal may remain to be done; but it is idle to declare that the sun has not risen because we do not yet see it in the zenith. Even the most extreme Southern newspapers constantly contain paragraphs that amaze us, not only in contrast to slavery times, but in contrast to the times immediately following the war. While I was in South Carolina the Charleston News and Courier published, with commendation, the report of a hill, passed by the Maryland legislature, admitting colored lawyers to practice, after the court of appeals had excluded them; and it copied with implied, approval the remark of the Baltimore Gazette: “Raise the educational test, the rigidity of the examinations for admission, or the moral test as high as you please, but let us have done with the color test.”

It is certain that every republican politician whom I saw in South Carolina, black or white, spoke well of Governor Hampton, with two exceptions, — Mr. W. J. Whipper, whom Governor Chamberlain refused to commission as judge, and Mr. Jones, who was clerk of the house of delegates through its most corrupt period. I give their dissent for what it is worth, but the opinion of others was as I have said. “We have no complaint to make of Governor Hampton; he has kept his pledges,” was the general remark. For instance, a bill passed both houses by a party vote, requiring able-bodied male prisoners, under sentence in county jails, to work on the public roads and streets. The colored people remonstrated strongly, regarding it as aimed at them. Governor Hampton vetoed the bill, and the house, on reflection, sustained the veto by a vote of one hundred and two to ten. But he is not always so strong in influence: there is a minority of “fire-eaters” who resist him; he is denounced by the “up-country” people as an aristocrat; and I was told that he might yet need the colored vote to sustain him against his own party. Grant that this assumes him to be governed by self-interest; that strengthens the value of this evidence. We do not expect that saints will have the monopoly of government at South or North; what we need is to know that the colored vote in South Carolina makes itself felt as a power, and secures its rightful ends.

The facts here stated are plain and unquestionable. When we come to consider the political condition of the former slaves, we find greater difficulties in taking in the precise position. First, it must be remembered that even at the North the practical antagonism towards colored voters lasted long after their actual enfranchisement, and has worn out only by degrees. Samuel Breck, in his very entertaining reminiscences, tells us that in Philadelphia, in the early part of this century, the colored voters seldom dared to come to the polls, for fear of ill usage. Then we must remember that in South Carolina, the State which has been most under discussion in this essay, the colored voters were practically massed, for years, under the banner of spoliation, and the antagonism created was hardly less intense than that created by the Tweed dynasty in New York. As far as I can judge, neither the “carpet-bag” frauds nor the “Ku-Klux” persecutions have been exaggerated, and they certainly kept each other alive, and have, at least temporarily, ceased together. No doubt the atrocities committed by the whites were the worst, inasmuch as murder is worse than robbery, but few in South Carolina will now deny that the provocation was simply enormous.

And it is moreover true that this state of things left bad blood behind it, which will long last. It has left jealousies which confound the innocent with the guilty. Judging the future by the past, the white South Carolinian finds it almost impossible to believe that a republican state administration can be decently honest. This is a feeling quite apart from any national attitude, and quite consistent with a fair degree of loyalty. Nor does it take the form of resistance to colored voters as such. The Southern whites accept them precisely as Northern men in cities accept the ignorant Irish vote, — not cheerfully, but with acquiescence in the inevitable; and when the strict color-line is once broken they are just as ready to conciliate the negro as the Northern politician to flatter the Irishman. Any powerful body of voters may be cajoled to-day and intimidated to-morrow and hated always, but it can never be left out of sight. At the South, politics are an absorbing interest: people are impetuous; they divide and sub-divide on all local issues, and each faction needs votes. Two men are up for mayor or sheriff, or what not: each conciliates every voter he can reach, and each finds it for his interest to stand by those who help him. This has been long predicted by shrewd observers, and is beginning to happen all over the South. I heard of a dozen instances of it. Indeed, the vote of thanks passed by the Mississippi legislature to its colored senator, Mr. Bruce, for his vote on the silver bill was only the same thing on a larger scale. To praise him was to censure Mr. Lamar.

It may be said, “Ah, but the real test is, Will the black voters be allowed to vote for the republican party?” To assert this crowning right will undoubtedly demand a good deal of these voters; it will require courage, organization, intelligence, honesty, and leaders. Without these, any party, in any State, will sooner or later go to the wall. As to South Carolina, I can only say that one of the ablest republican lawyers in the State, a white man, unsuspected of corruption, said to me, “This is a republican State, and to prove it such we need only to bring out our voters. For this we do not need troops, but that half a dozen well-known Northern republicans should canvass the State, just as if it were a Northern State. The colored voters need to know that the party at the North has not, as they have been told, deserted them. With this and a perfectly clean list of nominees, we can carry the legislature, making no nominations against Hampton.” “But,” I asked, “would not these meetings be broken up?” “Not one of them,” he said. “They will break up our local meetings, but not those held by speakers from other States. It would ruin them with the nation.” And this remark was afterwards indorsed by others, white and black. When I asked one of the few educated colored leaders in the State, “Do you regret the withdrawal of the troops by President Hayes?” “No,” he said; “the only misfortune was that they were not withdrawn two years earlier. That would have put us on our good behavior, obliged us to command respect, and made it easier to save the republican party. But it can still, be saved.”

There is no teacher so wholesome as personal necessity. In South Carolina a few men and many women cling absolutely to the past, learning nothing, forgetting nothing. But the bulk of thinking men see that the old Southern society is as absolutely annihilated as the feudal system, and that there is no other form of society now possible except such as prevails at the North and West. “The purse-proud Southerner,” said Rev. Dr. Pinckney, in his address at Charleston, “is an institution which no longer exists. The race has passed away as completely as the Saurian tribes, whose bones we are now digging from the fossil beds of the Ashley.” “The Yankees ought to be satisfied,” said one gentleman to me: “every live man at the South is trying with all his might to be, a Yankee.” Business, money, financial prosperity, — these now form the absorbing Southern question. At the Exchange Hotel in Richmond, where I spent a Sunday, the members of the Assembly were talking all day about the debt, — how to escape bankruptcy. I did not overhear the slightest allusion to the negro or the North. It is likely enough that this may lead to claims on the national treasury, but it tends to nothing worse. The dream of reënslaving the negro, if it ever existed, is like the negro’s dream, if he ever had it, of five acres and a mule from the government. Both races have long since come down to the stern reality of self-support. No sane Southerner would now take back as slaves, were they offered, a race of men who have been for a dozen years freemen and voters.

Every secessionist risked his all upon secession, and has received as the penalty of defeat only poverty. It is the mildest punishment ever inflicted after an unsuccessful civil war, and it proves in this case a blessing in disguise. Among Southern young men it has made energy and industry fashionable. Formerly, if a Southern planter wished to travel, he borrowed money on his coming crop, or sold a slave or two. Now he must learn what John Randolph, of Roanoke, once announced as the philosopher’s stone, to “pay as you go.” The Northern traveler asks himself, Where are the white people of the South? You meet few in public, conveyances; you see no crowd in the streets. In the hotels of Washington you rarely hear the Southern accent, and, indeed, my Virginia friends declared that some of its more marked intonations were growing unfashionable. Out of one hundred and three Southern representatives in Congress, only twenty-three have their families with them. On one of the few day trains from Washington to Richmond, there was but one first-class car, and there were not twenty passengers, mostly from the Northern States. Among some fifty people on the steamboat from Savannah to Jacksonville, there were not six Southerners. Everywhere you hear immigration desired and emigration recognized as a fact. My friend the judge talked to me eloquently about the need of more Northern settlers, and the willingness of all to receive them; the plantations would readily be broken up to accommodate any purchaser who had money. But within an hour, his son, a young law student, told me that as soon as he was admitted to the bar he should go West.

The first essential to social progress at the South is that each State should possess local self-government. The States have been readmitted as States, and can no more be treated as Territories than you can replace a bird in the egg. They must now work out their own salvation, just as much as Connecticut and New Jersey. If any abuses exist, the remedy is not to be found in federal interference, except in case of actual insurrection, but in the voting power of the blacks, so far as they have strength or skill to assert it; and where that fails, in their power of locomotion. They must leave those counties or States which ill-use them for others which treat them better. If a man is dissatisfied with the laws of Massachusetts, and cannot get them mended, he can at least remove into Rhode Island or Connecticut, and the loss of valuable citizens will soon make itself felt.

This is the precise remedy possessed by the colored people at the South, with the great advantage that they have the monopoly of all the leading industries, and do not need the whites more, on the whole, than the whites need them. They have reached the point where civilized methods begin to prevail. When they have once enlisted the laws of political economy on their side, this silent ally will be worth more than an army with banners.