A MOUNTAIN FUNERAL.
As I was about leaving the mountain neighborhood inhabited by the moon-shiners, I was informed that one of their number was “ to be buried ” that afternoon, and decided to attend the funeral. Reaching the place — a small farm high up on the side of the mountain — an hour before the time appointed for the services, I found the door-yard already nearly full of men and boys, while others came in sight every few minutes from the surrounding woods. Many of the men had their guns with them. Most of these were “ stacked,” or stood up together, in the corner or angle between the projecting chimney and the wall of the house, on the outside. Most of the men stood around a great fire of logs, which had been built in the yard. Others sat on the rail fences and on the numerous oak stumps. Nearly all smoked pipes, and talked, with solemn animation, of the personal qualities and history of their deceased neighbor. “ Mart was a good one, ef there ever wuz one on this crick,” said an old man, as he picked up a glowing coal with his fingers, letting it drop into the palm of his hand, whence he dexterously rolled it into the bowl of his pipe. He drew a few strong whiffs, and then repeated, “Mart was a good one, I tell you!” “He wuz that,” assented a younger mountaineer. Then each person in the company by the fire contributed some remembrance of “ Mart,” and his good traits and actions. There was something which seemed Homeric in the simple earnestness and strength of this talk. It was the real funeral oration. Many acts of tender kindness were mentioned. Some talked of his physical prowess and courage. One man’s lips quivered as he summed up, “ There hain’t no man can say Mart ever turned his back on a friend or a foe ; ” and several responded in chorus, “ That’s a fact, by the Jeemses River.”
A man from the camp had accompanied me. He introduced me to those who desired acquaintance as a gentleman from Richmond, who had “ ben over in the valley lookin’ at land ; an’ as he never was up in the mountains before, he ’s come across this way to see the country.” He had advised this course, as we were on our way to the funeral, saying, “ We 'll tell ’em all about ye, after ye’re gone; but now, ye see, 't would jest make an excitement, and kind o’ disturb the fun’ral, an’ ’t ain’t wuth while.” I thought this a sensible view of the matter, and talked but little, as I had then no questions to ask. Presently “ the preacher ” came, riding along a forest path. A young man took his horse, and hitched it in a corner of the fence. The older men spoke to the minister, and shook hands with him. “Would you like to go in?” the old man already mentioned asked me. “If it’s all right, and there is room.” “ Come along; I'll git ye a seat.” I was placed just inside of the door, very near the minister, who stood in the door-way to conduct the services. The men stood in the yard. The two rooms which I could see were filled with women and little children. The long coffin lay in the centre of the room, supported on two chairs. The bereaved woman, young, tall and powerful-looking, sat by the body of her husband, with three little children near her. One of these was but a babe. It was alarmed by the strangeness of the scene, and, refusing to be comforted by the neighbor who had it in charge, it had to be hushed on its mother’s bosom.
The minister began by “ lining out ” the hymn : —
Or shake at death’s alarms ?
’T is but the voice that Jesus sends
To call them to his arms.”
As he read these lines the woman gave a low, piercing wail of grief, which was followed by a burst of weeping from those who sat nearest her. There was a prayer full of sympathy and fervor, becoming rather vociferous near the close ; then a very sensible sermon about the shortness and uncertainty of life, the certainty of death, and the great importance of being “prepared for a better world.” “ Our brother that’s gone,” the minister said, “ had sought the Lord, and found him precious; and he said he was goin’ home to live with Jesus. It was hard for him to leave his dear family, but he looked forward to a meetin' in heaven, where parting will be no more.” The chief mourner’s wails grew more impassioned, and the assembly shook with repressed weeping. Many of the men outside were in tears. There was another hymn, and then the people filed past the coffin, for the last look at the dead face. In a very short time, and without any apparent confusion or hurry, we were on our way to the graveyard : a straggling, irregular procession, mostly on foot, but with some on horseback, “ riding double.” A few of the older men walked in front. Next to these came a dozen or more of the younger women, accompanied and followed by about as many young men ; then older men and women on foot; then the wagon with the coffin and the family; and, bringing up the rear, those who were on horseback. I walked with my friend, a little in advance of the wagon. Immediately after we passed beyond the inclosure around the house, the widow addressed one of her neighbors, who was passing the wagon to a place in front, and bade him “ tell Elmiry to sing.” The word was passed along the line forward to the young women, and one of them, a tall, deep-chested girl, began a Methodist “ revival hymn.” Her voice was very strong and clear, and sweet, when not too loud. It had strange, thrilling cadences, and made me think of the singing of an improvisatrice. The other young people joined in the song, taking the different musical parts. When the hymn was ended, another was started by the same leader, and others in succession, during the entire march to the grave. In places the road was rough, and as the singers became weary from their double exertion their voices trembled and quavered, and some of them sang a little out of time and tune. Once, when there was a slight pause, the woman in the wagon exclaimed, “ I hope Elmiry ain’t a goin’ to stop singin’! ” I pitied the poor girls, as some of them appeared to be much exhausted.
At the grave the minister lined out another hymn, and it was sung while the coffin was being lowered to its place. The woman wailed and screamed, and fell backward, fainting, into the arms of the women who pressed around her. The people remained until the grave was filled up. Then the poor woman, who seemed half unconscious still, was lifted into the wagon, and laid on the robes and blankets on the bottom of it, with her head supported on Elmiry’s lap. We returned to the house silently, and I thought the dark, wintry woods looked sad and lonely, and nature seemed unpitying. Some of the “ neighbor-women ” had remained at the house, and had “ got supper for all that ’ll stay,” as they said. I wished to engage my guide to take me on horseback to the railroad that night, and he said he would go if I would “ stay an’ git somethin’ to eat first.” I was glad to see that the woman of the house tried to eat, and that her hospitable instincts struggled with her grief, as she thoughtfully endeavored to make sure that every one was urged to “ come to the table.” As we arose from our repast I heard one of the young women inviting others to take our places, assuring them that " they’s room now ; the first table’s all eat.”
It was dark when my guide and I mounted our horses, and set out through the woods. We rode at a speed which I had not anticipated, nor thought was possible over ground so rough. I could barely see the man and horse in front of me. We dashed on, at a long, rough trot. After we had been half an hour on the way, my guide turned in his saddle, and asked, " Kin ye set purty tight?” I thought I might as well say, “ Oh, yes,” as I was plainly “ in for it.” It was nearly ten o’clock when we reached the railroad station in the woods. I asked the man what I should pay him. “’Bout a dollar ’ll pay for my trouble, I reckon.” He fastened up the stirrups of the saddle on which I had ridden, and struck the horse sharply with a switch. The animal promptly started homeward. I gave the man my hand, and thanked him, and he said, " I reckon ye won’t come this way ag’in.” “ I suppose not, this year ; some time, it may be.” “ We’d like to hev ye. I reckon our folks ’ll ruther miss ye.”
The train came along soon afterward. As it trundled on, hour after hour, I dozed in the car-seat, and all that I had seen and heard in the mountains seemed to withdraw far away into the shadowy land of dreams. The next morning the conductor shook me out of a deep sleep, and as I rose heavily to my feet he said, “ Sorry to disturb ye, for I reckon ye ’re mighty tired. But come an’ have some breakfast. Ye’ve ben up in the mountains, hain’t ye ? I heered ye was goin’, back on the road.”
After breakfast, I deposited my baggage with a woman who was selling whisky to her neighbors, in the one room of her home, near the station, and started out to look around me. I saw a country wholly without “ scenery,” or features of any kind, — a wide expanse of rich, level land ; no hills, no valleys, no streams or woods. A few trees and clumps of bushes were in sight, scattered about the plain, but they did not seem to break its monotony in any degree. It was a land, I thought, where New England women, lovers of the hills, might die of homesickness and the burden of the wearying sameness and eternal desolation around them. I was in one of the great “ black districts ” of the central South.
I asked a man at the roadside where I could hire a horse for the day. He pointed to a house a mile away, and replied, “ Ye kin git somethin’ thar, I reckon.” I was soon on the back of an enormous mule. As I mounted I asked the farmer if the animal was all right, and he replied, “ He’s the same as any mule, I reckon; they ’re all-fired unprincipled, all on ’em. It’s best to be ready for Gabr’el to blow any time, when ye ’re in their company.” But I rode the mule all over that region during that day and the next, and be behaved very well. It was a “ cotton country ” which I was now exploring. It seemed at first to have but a sparse population, as there were few houses in sight ; but I found this impression a common one on first looking at a district thickly inhabited by colored people. Their houses are small and inconspicuous, and are usually huddled in groups, in what a Northern traveler would regard as outof-the-way corners, in hollows, near a clump of bushes, or in other unexpected places. The number of negroes which one small cabin can shelter and accommodate is startling. On many plantations, however, there is much improvement of late in the housing of the black laborers, and I saw many hundreds of new and commodious dwellings which were occupied by the “ hands ” on large cotton plantations, and which were better in every way than the average “ tenement-house” of some New England factory towns. Inside, however, there is usually little house-keeping. In most cases, on the great plantations in the “ black regions ” which I have visited, there is what Northern people would regard as hideous squalor and noisome uncleanliness within doors, and the black people seem to be merely camping out in the house. Very often the tenement is too good to suit them, and they would feel more at home in a ruinous hut.
What impressed me most respecting the quality of the labor in this region, as in all the great black districts, was the element of periodicity. Few of the black people seem to be able to work steadily or continuously for many days together. They must have frequent holidays, and appear to require some special stimulus or excitement to hold them to their employment; and periods of somnolent, sluggish enjoyment and animal repose, lasting a day or two, seem also to be necessary. Wherever there is a small village or hamlet within reach, the negroes on the nearest plantations congregate about it. There is nearly everywhere a marked tendency toward the towns, on the part of the “ plantation hands.” The movement in this direction has not, generally, I think, been productive of good results of any kind. Almost everywhere, as in the region which I was now examining, I found numerous rather handsome young mulattoes, men who are politicians, idle, voluble, worthless, and vicious. They are usually satellites of white politicians, and act as pimps and procurers for them among the young women of their own race. These men are objects of abhorrence and terror to the admirable women who are watching over the young colored girls in their neighborhood, and trying to guide them in womanly ways. These flashy, dissolute fellows are nearly always able to defeat such efforts, and to secure the silly girls as fresh prey for the licentious passions of the satellite’s white employer. More than once I witnessed a quarrel between a ruffian of this stamp and his master, growing out of the fact that the latter had invaded his menial’s “ rights,” by taking for himself what the pimp claimed as exclusively his own. On one occasion I noted that the injured man made an oration about his wrongs. Brandishing a photograph of a mulatto girl, he thrust it into the white man’s face, exclaiming, " By —, you know you never inherited this! ”
In the great black regions the prevailing type is the uncouth, strangely-shaped, animal-looking negro or mulatto, who seems mentally, even more than by physical characteristics, to belong to a race entirely distinct from that of the white men around him. He is not so much hostile or antagonistic as alien, unimpressible, inaccessible. He cannot be influenced or guided to any great extent. He must have his way. He will do only so much work, and will labor only under conditions natural and desirable to him. He cannot be hurried, coaxed, bribed, or driven to do anything as Northern men like to have work done. I could not find any instances in which Northern men had been successful with negroes of this type as laborers. Southern white men of character and education seem to understand them, and to be able to arrange the conditions of life for them so that their labor is profitable, and their peculiar qualities have not become explosive and ruinous to the entire social fabric of the regions in which they are, numerically, so much stronger than the whites. What the black people in such regions may become in the future is yet, in great degree, uncertain; but at present their race characteristics are remarkably definite. They do not appear, so far as I can judge, to be now undergoing any marked transformation or process of change as a race or distinct class of people; and while I cannot say positively that there is no improvement among them, I must confess that I have been unable to find any evidence or indication of it.
They are undoubtedly, in some important respects, a powerful race. They have enormous physical vitality in their present circumstances, but all that I have seen of them inclines me to doubt their having the ability to adapt themselves to any great change in their environment or the principal conditions of their life. But it is certain that all the theories and fancies regarding their decay and dying out as a race, which have been presented at different times since the first introduction of the negroes into this country, must be dismissed as idle speculations, with no support in the facts of the case. The negroes increase rapidly everywhere in the country places ; much less rapidly in the towns, because there prostitution greatly reduces the number of births. It is also clear that the negro will not “ be crowded out by the superior race.” For reasons to be hereafter pointed out, it is likely that the rate of increase of the white population of the Southern States will soon begin to diminish, but it is not likely that the causes which will produce this decline will affect the black people in equal degree. They form already a large proportion of the people of our entire country. They will in all probability remain permanently upon our soil, and will be able to do their share of any “ crowding” that may result from the conditions of life here in America in the future.
A BLACK PLANTER.
Leaving the railroad at Bayou Goula, Louisiana, I traveled on horseback westward and northwestward through the country for long distances. In this region the condition of the laborers is superior to that which prevails in Mississippi. For the most part the soil is better, but I think the chief reason for the higher character of the people of both races, the blacks and their employers, is that the production of sugar is better suited to develop and improve all who are concerned in it than the growing of cotton. Far over in the interior of the State, in a rich region lying among interlacing streams and arms of the bayous, I found a black man engaged in farming. He said that he was forty-two years old, and that his father, who died but seven or eight years ago on his son’s plantation, was a young prince, or chief, in an important negro country in Africa, when he was captured and sold to traders, who sent him to America as a slave. Here he found a young woman of like origin and blood with himself, and married her. They had several children, but only this man whom I visited lived to grow up. The others died in infancy, because, as the survivor thought, their masters “ had not sense enough to know how to hold slaves.” “ A fool can’t be a master,” he said ; “ he needs a master for himself.” He had nothing when he found himself free at the end of the war. He went to work as a teamster for the Federal officers who remained some time in that region, and afterward bought a mule and began farming. He did all kinds of hard work, and soon employed other men, in order to derive some profit from their labor. After a year or two he bought a few acres of land, and began at once to save manure. This last was regarded as a foolish innovation, as it had never been attempted in that region.
He soon saw that it was ruinous to buy so many things in the way of plantation supplies and tools, and accordingly began to produce his own corn, pork, bacon, and hay, and many other articles which the planters about him had always purchased from the merchants in the towns. Next, he determined to try to construct his own farm buildings, and to make some of the principal tools required in his various occupations. He said he learned all the trades himself : those of the carpenter, bricklayer, and plasterer; he became a blacksmith and tinsmith, and built carts and wagons, and made axes and hoes, barrels and pails. He said the things were not very smooth ; it made him sick to look at them; but he learned how to begin, and then he could do better next time. He visited and examined a foundry in one of the towns on the river, and built a small furnace, and made some castings at home.
As soon as he had paid for his land he resolved to train a few laborers, and teach them to work according to his ideas and methods. He said that on the large plantation up the bayou the hands had a hundred and fifty ways of covering a hill of corn, and not one of them was the right way. He began to look for young men for his purpose, but could find few who were earnest or trustworthy, or who cared to learn. He said, “ I saw that a good hand was worth more to me than a poor one, and of course, he ought to be worth more to himself. So I told the men that if they would do just what I wanted I would pay a little more than the usual wages, and that I would not keep poor hands about me, if they would work for nothing. It must be good work or none. So I have got these men to work in my way, and have taught them how to teach others, and to manage things ; and when they go away from here every one of them is to teach his hands all the things he has learned on my place.” He would like to grow his own cotton and wool, and spin and weave them, if he could, but of course he could not make everything at home. He thought it one of the most important things in the economy of life (or, to use his own phrase, “ in managing the business of living ”) to decide what should be produced at home, and what should be purchased of others. He had studied much about this, wishing to “ find out what was just about right,” and had decided that there was no certain rule, and that the relations between these two divisions of a planter’s business, the quantity or extent of each, would necessarily be varied by differences of climate, soil, place, the state of society or the degree of civilization prevailing in the country, and other circumstances.
After I had spent an evening with him he said, “ Why do you ask me about so many things ? I should think you wanted to come to this country and be a planter.” “ No, I am not coming here to live. I only wish to learn as much as possible about life here. You see, I don’t think the white people are the only inhabitants of Louisiana.” “ Ah,” he said, “ that’s a dark subject. I don’t see exactly how things are to come out for all of us here.”
This man was one of the most successful planters and business men that I saw in all my journey through the South, and it appeared to me probable that he would not only become rich, but that he would do much to improve the condition of the region in which he lived. He seemed to understand more clearly than most white planters the value of the principle of the selection of labor and laborers according to quality and performance. I asked many Southern men if some advance could not be made in this direction, but they nearly all thought it impracticable, and especially so in gathering the cotton crop, as it is necessary to employ “everything that can pick a pound.” Much of it is in fact picked by children, and it is often handled carelessly and wastefully. The cotton-picking was not finished in the Southwest last winter until it was time to plant the new crop in the spring. Much of the old crop was indeed never “ saved ” at all. I visited many plantations while the picking was in progress, and observed the methods of the laborers. The cotton is spread, or piled, on the ground in the field, and is often trampled under foot; and sand, mud, sticks, and stones are gathered up and carried away with it, and put into the bales. If the hands employed in gathering it could be required to use more care in handling the cotton, so as to keep it as clean as possible, and free from the substances which are so commonly mingled with it, I think its value would be considerably increased.
I was soon aware, in talking with this man, that he had read more than is found in newspapers, and desired to see his home, and learn what books, if any, were to be found there. He had Plutarch’s Lives, and Montaigne in French; an old copy of a cheap American edition of Bacon’s Essays, in one volume; most of Plato, in volumes belonging to different editions ; Pope’s Homer ; an old copy of Sartor Resartus ; a selection from Wordsworth’s poems ; Rollins’ Ancient History ; Shakespeare’s plays ; and Carey’s Dante. He liked Plutarch and Shakespeare best; thought there were some great men “in the business that Homer tells about,” but said he could not see them all plainly, and wished he could read it in the Greek. He believed Socrates to have been a very sensible man, and would like to know what he said, or what he would say, about many things ; and to ask him about the hands and the work on the plantation, sometimes. But Plato was like one of these newspaper men ; he talked too much ; if he had a big thing to talk about he talked all the time, and if it was a little thing he talked just the same. He thought Socrates and Abraham Lincoln would have liked each other, “ and Carlyle.” He went on, “Those three men, if they could be together, would have more fun than ever was in the world at one time ; they could tell so many stories.” I asked if they would not want Bacon with them ; to which, after a moment’s pause, he replied, “ Bacon is very sober, but sometimes it is no great thing he has to tell us.” He had Darwin’s Origin of Species, he said, and had read it several years ago; but the book was not at home, as he had loaned it to a colored minister. There was a copy of Animals and Plants under Domestication, with various books on farming and stock-breeding, about forty volumes of African travels, and a few numbers of the Popular Science Monthly and of some British reviews.
He said the facts or laws of descent had “been known always in Africa. The people of this country do some strange things. I cannot see what their plan is. The very men who ought to show the people what to do will mix their blood with the blood of slaves. In Africa a prince or chief has as many wives as he wants, but they must all be of good blood. There are officers who have to remember who was everybody’s father and mother.” There were three kinds of men in Louisiana, he thought. One kind would not learn anything, nor do anything. They ought to be driven out into some poor country by themselves. “ It would be better to kill them, but that’s not the way here.” The second class could do good work if they had somebody to tell them what to do, and to teach them. The other kind of men have to think what can be done, and they have to give orders, and put men in the right places. “ On most of the plantations along here there is no foremost man. It’s all tail without any head. Sometimes the man that’s giving orders ought to be set to driving a mule, with somebody to drive him.” I asked him what he thought of politics, and he replied that there was “ no good in all this ki-yi about voting, and what this party and that party will do, — no good for the black people. They would better work, and get homes of their own, and stay away from the speeches. If a man works, and makes a living, he cannot do everything else. When a black man begins to talk about ‘ de principles ob de gubberment ’ I see he don’t make much cotton.”
I remarked that in the North much improvement in all Southern affairs and interests was hoped for, as the result of the education of the negroes. He pointed across the fields, and answered, “ Yes, the education is here.” “ But you would have these men read ; you like books and newspapers.” “ Books after work, if a man wants them. Not many of our race can work and read too. Newspapers make us meddle with other people’s business, and let go of our own. If I get mixed up with the Zulu war or the Nihilists, who will see that the mules are fed at the right time in the morning ? ” He stooped and pulled up a bunch of weeds by the roadside, and, shaking the earth from their roots, held them up for me to see, observing, “Worst kind of Nihilists around here, too.” As we walked along the levee by the side of the plantation, he spoke of one of his men who had worked there the year before, and had done a good job, but had since gone to be a preacher. “ Was that good? ” I asked. “ It’s not for me to say it’s good or bad. He was a good, true man, and he thought he ought to preach.” “ Does their religion help the black people much ? ” “ Some of them ; some not. Most of them go into it too strong at the meetings. It makes them drunker than whisky. The preachers generally don’t know a great deal, and the people don’t want to learn anything.” “ What do you think of it all for yourself? ” He stopped, and turned his face upward to the sun, and, stretching out his arms, exclaimed, “ There is something there ! I do not know what it is.” After a few moments we talked of the soil and crops, the manners of the people of the region, and other topics. This man’s wife was much younger than himself, — a tall, rather silent woman, very black, but with features entirely unlike those of the usual African type. They had four sturdy children. A young mulatto woman assisted in the domestic work. The lady of the house — shall I say — presided at the table in an easy, graceful manner, and evidently followed the conversation intelligently, though she said little. Before the end of my visit she was more communicative, but was plainly inclined to shelter herself at her husband’s side. They were evidently in thorough sympathy, affectionate, proud, and happy. Their life seemed to be entirely wholesome and admirable. The boys will learn trades, their father said, and the girls housekeeping.
This man seemed to have a firm grasp upon reality, and to see his way clearly, while most of the men around him, of both races, were floundering in uncertainty and inefficiency. I talked a little with several of the men who worked for him. They all thought their employer the best and wisest man they had ever known, and appeared to feel for him the reverence and devotion of soldiers for a beloved commander. Of his men this black planter said, “ There is nothing they would not do for me.” I think the work of this man and his co-laborers an instance of the kind of reconstruction which the South most needs, — the guidance of labor, by competent men, for the benefit of all concerned.
ANOTHER BLACK PLANTER.
There is another class of colored men in the South, who are laying the foundations of a better state of things than now prevails by sheer industry and devotion to money-making. I found a conspicuous illustration of this type in the person and work of a negro in one of the old Southern States. He could not read, but had learned within a few years, by instruction from his young wife, to write well enough to enable him to “ keep the time ” of his hands by recording it in his book of farm accounts. He had “ begun without nothin’,” he said. At the end of the war he gathered up some “lame and sick gov'ment mules that had been turned out fuh de crows, an’ doctor’d ’em up.” Then he worked on the plantations near him, at first by the day, but soon began to rent land and “ hire hands.” He said he “ lived on nothin’, or what other folks frowed away; but I reckon I fed my mules mighty well.” He had bought land, a little at a time, and when I visited him owned many hundred acres of the best land in that region. He still worked hard himself, and exacted, most rigidly, the amount of labor which he thought his hands ought to perform. “ I don’t lay out fuh ’em to do as much as I does, boss ; but dey mus’ n’t shirk.” His residence was but a few miles from a considerable town. The year before I was there a neighboring planter had wanted a twenty-acre wood-lot cleared off. It was heavily timbered, and this black man offered to clear the ground for the wood which was to be removed. This was accepted, and he “ had de choppin’ done in de wintah, when dey wus n’t no wuk, an’ han’s wus cheap.” The wood was drawn out and piled up on a vacant lot near the road. “ Nex’ summah eberybody’s out o’ wood in town ; dey allays is ; dey nebber luks ahead mo’ ’an ’twel dinnah time. Nobody hain’t no time to haul wood den. Eberybody’s in de cotton. But ebery night, ahtah we done done de day’s wuk in de fiel’, den my wagons ebery one takes load o’ wood to town. De bigbugs pays good price den, ’cause dey ain’t no wood fuh to be hed. So dah, den [becoming animated], hi, boss, I sells de wood, see! An’ I pays all de spences fuh cuttin’ it, an’ in de nex’ place I buys de lan’ what de wood come off, an’ I hab suffin lef’ in de bank.” The guttural chuckle with which he ended I am powerless to represent. The principal citizens of the town said this story was true.
This man reared cattle, sheep, and hogs, and had better blooded animals than any other planter near him, white or black. He was saving all the manure that his farms yielded, and drawing more from the town, — “ de profit’s on de back load.” His fences were good, and, what is rare in the South, the fence-rows were kept clean, and free from weeds, briers, and bushes. He had married but a year or two before my visit a beautiful young woman, with scarcely a trace of negro blood. He was extremely proud of her, and of their babe, a handsome boy. I took supper with them, by invitation, the family and the “ hands ” eating at the same table, while a colored servant-girl waited on us. There was excellent coffee and tolerable bread, but the principal dish was some kind of meat, which I did not recognize. After eating of it heartily I asked my host what it was, and he said it was “chit’luns ; ” but I did not at once think of “ chitterlings,” and he explaincd particularly what it was that we had been eating.
After supper the woman went away with the baby, and as we rose from the table I saw a double-barreled shot-gun standing in the corner of the room, and inquired whether there was much game in that part of the country. “ Dat ain’t fuh no game. Dat’s fuh dem damned niggah preachahs.” “ What’s the matter with the preachers ? ” “ Spose I want ’em comin' ’roun hyuh to see my wife, when I’s ’way from home? De lowdown hogs ! Dey makes deh livin’ gwian ’roun’, an’ eatin’ an’ eatin’, an’ dey fool de wimmen twel dey hain’t no sense.” “Would you not allow a preacher to come to your house ? ” “ Let him wait twel I axes de pleasuh ob his comp’ny. I done tol’ em all ’roun’ hyuh, I let ’em know when I wants ’em. My wife b’longs to me, an’ I ’s gwian to luk out fuh dem slick houn’s wiv dat shot-gun.”
This man’s description applies justly to some of the colored preachers in most parts of the South. They are ignorant, fat, lazy, and licentious. Many of them use intoxicating liquors freely. The influence of such men is of course a curse to the colored people, and is the cause of much immorality among the married women who are members of the “ colored churches.” But it would be most unjust to allow my readers to infer that colored ministers generally belong to this class. Here, as in the description of all classes of people in the South, discrimination is necessary. The new order of things is manifesting itself in a conflict between opposing tendencies in the negro churches, and among their ministers. Except in the larger towns, most of the older ministers depend on mere noise and excitement to influence their hearers. They work themselves into incoherent fury, stamp and yell, and appeal only to the “ feelings ” of their uninstructed followers. These old men denounce “ de high-flyin’ preachin’ we has dese days.” They say “ it’s all book-l’arnin’; dey ain’t no Holy Ghos’ in it, at all. Dis new religion mighty smaht, an’ mighty proud, but it hain’t got no feelin’ to it.” There is a great deal of truth in this. The more intellectual preaching of the younger educated men is ill suited to the tropical and impulsive nature of the colored people. Their life is far more a matter of instinct than of thought, and to attempt to teach religion to them by means of appealing to their reason is to disarm religion at once of all its potency. The preachers and missionaries who are best adapted to the peculiar conditions and needs of the colored people are the young men who have received an industrial education, who have been trained to manual labor, and have learned either farming or some mechanical art at such schools as the Normal and Agricultural Institute at Hampton, Virginia, or the other admirable institutions of learning fostered by the American Missionary Association and the churches of the South. Of course, this class is still very small, but it comprises some excellent men, whose influence is already widely felt in the South, and is a potent factor in the soundest and most hopeful religious work now going on there.
Savage African beliefs, or superstitions, as to the interference of supernatural powers in the affairs of human life prevail everywhere among the negroes of the South to an extent which Northern people would scarcely imagine without special study of the subject. This is not to be wondered at when we observe how largely prehistoric forms of thought survive even in cultivated Northern communities. I think there are no negroes, perhaps, except the few educated young men referred to above, who are free from the influences of the general belief in signs, charms, dreams, spells, and magical incantations. Nearly every neighborhood has an old man or woman who possesses unearthly powers, and who is constantly consulted and appealed to for assistance in connection with the love affairs and the quarrels of the colored people, and in cases of protracted or mysterious sickness. The belief in the power of the evil eye is nearly universal, as is the notion that persons, domestic animals, wells, and particular places can be “ tricked”—that is, have a curse or malign spell put upon them — by anybody who knows the “charm,” or method of procedure which will produce such a result. A nail driven into the ground, with certain magical preliminaries and accompaniments, is a potent means of dire injuries and revenges. In matters of love, courtship, and marriage the negroes are usually extremely jealous and suspicious, and magical arts are commonly invoked to secure affection, to alienate those who are already attached to each other, and to protect aggressors from detection or punishment. There are various spells or formulæ for such purposes. They usually include the use of a scrap of some article of clothing which has been worn by the person who is to be tricked, or a shred of his hair, a piece of a finger-nail or toe-nail, or even some dust from his shoes. A volume might be written on the beliefs of the colored people regarding the supernatural, and on this department of their folk-lore, and the subject would probably as well repay attention as the ideas and race characteristics of savage tribes in distant parts of the world.
In their relations to one another, or life “ among themselves,” the colored people are generally very quarrelsome, and their social or neighborhood life is apt to be a continual scene of petty, vulgar bickering, of ill-temper and spite, which sometimes lead to blows, but more commonly find expression in end less and senseless talk. On several occasions I heard negro women quarreling noisily. They were all members of churches and very religious, and the war of words between them was largely made up of accusations of unchristian conduct and character. “You has not de sperrit; you has not de mahks o’ de sperrit.” “ My Lawd, he say to me by his sperrit, dat he ’spise yo’ lyin’ ways.” “ Ef yo’ heart was full o’ de love o’ God, yould a come to me, and yould a said to me,” Sistah Tummelson, Suze Maria’s Jim, be say you done tole Mose Trippleses wife,’ ” etc., etc.
The prevalence of unchastity among the young colored women is represented as almost universal. In every part of the South I was tohl by the most intelligent colored men that, except in peculiar and rare cases, no young man of their race can feel assured that his bride comes to him pure or free from the experience of vice. The colored girls go astray while they are yet so young that it seems impossible to give them any instruction suited to awaken a sense of womanly honor and delicacy, or to develop a disposition of self-protection and resistance to temptation. This is one of the serious social problems of the South. The conditions now existing and the prospects for the future are ominous for both races.
There are multitudes of young white men in the South who appear to be entirely destitute of any elevated or worthy principles or aims in life. They live merely for sensual gratifications, and their pursuit of such objects is open and avowed beyond anything that I have observed elsewhere. All their ideas are groveling, and their conversation is salacious beyond measure. This sheer animality, or lack of all manly and noble aspiration, is of appalling extent. When it is remembered that these young men usually encounter no resistance from the young colored women, it is plain that the development of domestic purity and the establishment of family life as one of the great agencies for advancement in civilization are objects which are likely to be very difficult of attainment, in many places in the South, for a long time to come. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that, at present, in that part of our country, there are whole populations to whom the virtues and sanctities of home and the divine restraints of womanly purity are entirely unknown.
The question of methods of punishment for crime, or rather the question of the disposition to be made of criminals while they are undergoing punishment, where they are to be bestowed and how guarded, is fast becoming a most serious one in some of the Southern States. It appears to many thoughtful observers that the sheer impossibility of finding room, or secure prison accommodations, for the swarms and hordes of criminals convicted of theft must lead to changes in the laws relating to crimes of this class, and to some relaxation of the penalties now provided. This is the characteristic crime of the negroes ; that is, the thefts committed by them greatly outnumber those committed by white men, and the expense to which the State is subjected has already reached alarming proportions. But the expense incurred is not the worst feature of the case. These prisoners, or criminals, white and colored together, are so numerous that they constitute a distinct social element or factor in the life and civilization of the community or State, with an appreciable influence upon public opinion, sentiment, and morals. Their class must be recognized, in any just survey of existing conditions and tendencies, as the source of potent formative or educating forces, as so many people are constantly in contact with them, either as guards or in other necessary relations. In the streets of some Southern capitals “ the penitentiary stripes ” are nearly always in sight, worn usually by men who are trusted to labor or attend to errands outside of the prison inclosures, often, in deed, without being accompanied by a guard. In one instance I met a handsome young man, wearing the prison garb, at various times, in the streets and at places of business in the city, and inquired regarding his crime and origin. I was told that he had murdered his most intimate friend and companion in a drunken quarrel, and that his conduct had been so satisfactory during his imprisonment that he would probably soon be released; “pardoned out,” to quote the phrase used. I observed that he chatted with the young women behind the counters in the stores, and with other customers, with easy self-possession ; and it was plain in this, as in many other cases, that neither the criminal nor the people about him felt that he was in any wise degraded by his crime, or that he was in consequence of it to suffer exclusion from pleasant social relations with the community. The penalties now enforced for some of the most common crimes do not constitute any real punishment for such men as make up the mass of criminals in the Southern States, where I have examined the prisons and the methods of their management. As many of them are not confined to the prison, nor even to the inclosure around it, and as the labor of such convicts is by no means severe, being usually performed in a very leisurely manner, their life is not destitute of compensations and attractions for many idle, worthless negroes and young white men. They are brought up from dull little country towns, where they had “ mighty hard work to live,” to a city, where they have “ a chance to see all the sights,” with better food, clothing, and shelter than they have ever enjoyed before. What is to be the course of society, under the conditions of modern life, in its treatment of the classes requiring control and protection, — criminals, paupers, and insane persons,—and what is to be the effect of the reflex influence which these classes will in turn exert upon society, are of course somewhat serious problems in all civilized countries, and we have abundant material and opportunity for observation and experiment here in America.
WHITE TYPES: THE “BOURBONS.”
As used in the North, this word “ Bourbon ” designates a class of white men, composed chiefly of the leading citizens of the Southern States. The Bourbons are the principal business men, lawyers, physicians, teachers, clergymen, merchants, and farmers of the South. They are everywhere the leaders of society, in the best sense of the word. They sustain the churches, and give such efficiency to the moral activities and discipline of the local communities as they have thus far attained. Taken broadly or generally, the class includes the best people of the South, or most of them. They are Bourbons because in politics they are democrats, and act in opposition to the principles, policy, or methods of the republican party, which has administered the national government since the time of our civil war. In the Southern States the term Bourbon has no distinct significance. It is applied indiscriminately by all classes of politicians to anybody who differs from them. It is there a convenient though empty epithet or name of reproach. Every politician insists that his party is the party of progress, of improvement, — the representative and embodiment of the only ideas by which society can exist or civilization be maintained ; and he is of course entitled to stigmatize his opponents as Bourbons. The word is a sham or burlesque weapon in the South, and is used there by everybody in political wrangling, “ for all it is worth.” As to the Southern men who compose the class to which this name is usually applied in the North, I am compelled to say that, aside from political matters, they are much like other people, or like the best people in our Northern communities. They do not appear to love what is wrong for its own sake, nor to prefer falsehood, baseness, cruelty, or injustice to the virtues and good qualities which are elsewhere revered by good men. They are amiable, truthful, conscientious, kind, public-spirited, and religious, resembling very closely the foremost men in our New England towns in all the important elements of personal character; differing only, in general, in being more communicative and having less reserve than is usual among New Englanders. As to their political action, it seems to me to have been for some years largely inevitable ; the necessary product and result of the peculiar conditions of life and society in the South since the civil war. It does not appear to have been owing to sheer depravity on their part, nor to any choice or agency of theirs, that there was for some years a disturbed and unsettled state of things in the Southern States. Collisions between different classes followed unavoidably upon the elevation of the emancipated slaves into political superiority over the disfranchised white citizens of the country. There has never been any such completeness of organization among the people of the South, since the war, as many persons believe to have existed there. That part of our country is distinguished by much greater feebleness of community and a less organic life than belongs to Northern society; and the Bourbons are not really responsible for everything that has been done south of Mason and Dixon’s line. I shall have more to say hereafter of Southern politics. Here I wish only to place the so-called Bourbon type as plainly as possible before my readers. The men thus designated are, as a class, eminently social, hospitable, honest, and upright men, if we leave their politics out of view. They have, in large measure, built up and maintained such moral, social, industrial, and religious organization and activity as the South now possesses, and much of what is best and most encouraging in the present state of things in the principal Southern States is due to them, and to their efforts for practical reconstruction in a time of extreme difficulty and uncertainty, when their resources were most discouragingly slender, and when they had uo precedents to guide them except such as were furnished by the experience of mankind in the long contest between civilization and barbarism in the past. I think they have made mistakes and have done wrong things since the war. I am not certain that we, or anybody else, would have done better than they.
In conversation with these gentlemen, I everywhere expressed my conviction that illegal interference with negro suffrage could not be continued without the most serious injury to all Southern interests, and that it would be better that Southern men, democrats, should make the ballot entirely free to all who are legally entitled to its possession, and then endure whatever ills might result. They always replied that disturbance, violence, and fraud were each year diminishing, and that negro political supremacy would be utterly ruinous for the state and for society, and insisted that if the republican party in the South possessed the character and employed the methods of the same party in the North they would gladly cooperate with it; that they were ready to discard and abandon their present political organization whenever any other party would take up the real problems of the South, and seriously address itself to their solution.
In studying the Bourbons I have been forced to conclude that nothing has yet been attained anywhere much better than the domestic life of this class of the Southern people, in its intelligence, refinement, beauty, and general elevation and wholesomeness.
ONE CLASS OF SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS.
I have in another place described various types, or individuals, among Southern republicans, but one very important type remains to be considered. No other class of persons in the South has, during the last fifteen or sixteen years, displayed characteristics so marked or vital ; no other class has been so logical or so consistent. Now that they appear to be about to leave the field of action forever, it is needful that their character, ideas, and work should receive due recognition, and be more adequately and justly set forth than has, so far as I know, as yet been attempted. I refer to the men who have always believed that, as the South was fairly conquered by the North, after a most obstinate resistance, it should, of right, be treated and ruled by the North as a conquered country; and that, as the subjugated people of the South adhere invincibly to their original hostility of feeling and purpose, and cherish undying hatred to the national government and to the Northern people, the rule of the conquerors should be stern, vigilant, and repressive. It is the conviction of men of this class that the authority of the national government can be maintained in the States once in revolt only by the constant exercise of force so great as to compel obedience, and make successful resistance clearly impossible. This class is not a large one, but it is made up of men of marked intellectual ability. Their moral character is irreproachable in everything outside of politics. But they regard the South as still in a state of war, and hold that any measure which is permissible in civilized warfare may rightly be employed by the national government in its long conflict with “ the Southern rebels.”
There are a few of these men in every Southern State, and I had much conversation with some of them last winter. They all believe that the Northern people in general, and especially the leaders of the republican party in the Northern States, are fatally ignorant and mistaken regarding the character and feelings of the Southern people. Some of them were impatient because I did not find everywhere in the South evidences of “ the savage malignity and hypocrisy of the rebels.” “ They are the worst people in the world,” I was assured again and again. “ There is nobody like them on the face of the earth.” As I came home from the South I had a long conversation with a gentleman of this elass who resides in Washington, and who has long held an important position in one of the departments or government offices there. He asked me how I found things in the South, and I answered that I thought there was some improvement. “In what respect?” “ There are more men at work, the total industrial production of the region is increasing, and there is less of disturbance in connection with politics.” “ Ah, I see ; they have deceived you, as they deceive every Northern man that goes down there. But they can’t deceive me. Oh, yes ; ‘ order reigns in Warsaw.’ Peace in the South means the sway of the shot-gun and revolver. There is no disturbance, you say; but it is because so many of our people have been butchered that the rest are afraid to stir.” In answer to further questioning, I spoke of the admirable arrangements for the health and general welfare of the laborers which I had observed at various factories in the South, and on many sugar plantations in the Southwest; and the gentleman replied, “ Yes, that ’s it, — that ’s it exactly. The old slave-holding spirit over again.”
I suggested the proverb about giving even the devil his due, and said that if the Southern people should ever really improve we ought gladly to recognize all changes for the better ; but my companion assured me that any professions of loyalty to the government, or of kindly feeling toward Northern men, which the Southern people might make were all pretense and hypocrisy. “ There is no sincerity in them.” “ Would you be satisfied if they would all vote the republican ticket ? ” “I don’t want them to vote the republican ticket. They ought never to have been allowed to vote at all.” “ But it is too late to change that, is it not ? What can be done now ? ” “ We should have legislation by Congress disfranchising every man who interferes with or intimidates republican voters ; and then the government should appoint men in every district and precinct who would enforce the law, and they should be sustained by the whole power of the nation “ It would be impossible to bring the Northern people to favor or sustain such legislation, or to find any considerable number of men who, as election officers in the Southern States, would try to enforce it. The business men of the North are becoming a little tired of stories about rebel outrages and the sufferings of Union men and republicans in the South. They want to trade with the South ; want to supply her people with tools and machinery and dry goods, and make money out of Southern custom.” “ Then ours is the real lost cause ! My God ! what kind of republicans have you up there, that are willing to give up all we fought for to get a little Southern trade ? ”
A gentleman holding similar convictions wrote to me from Southern Alabama, a few days after the shooting of President Garfield. I quote a paragraph relative to the general expression of Southern sympathy and sorrow evoked by that event: “ This is a most unfortunate occurrence for us, the republicans of the South. The Bourbons see their opportunity, and are improving it vigorously. This gush of pretended grief seems likely to impose on the clearest headed men in the North. The old rebels are pressing up to act as chief mourners, but they are standing on our necks. I fear our last hope has been struck down. The people up there never will understand the Southern leaders or their plans.” The letter goes on to explain that the writer had not expected a severely repressive Southern policy from President Garfield, but had supposed that Southern republicans would be recognized and sustained by his administration. I talked with several gentlemen of this class in the South, who felt keenly “the betrayal and abandonment of Southern republicans ” by the national government, and by the leaders of the republican party in the North. Men of this type do not generally approve of any “ political trading, or alliances with former rebels ” for the purpose of “breaking up the solid South.” Indeed, as is plain from their frequent and frank utterance of their convictions, they do not desire to see the “ solid South broken up.” They only' wish to see it “ kept down ” and controlled. “ The government ought to be implacable while the South is unrepentant,” said a lawyer in Texas, as I was leaving the State. We had talked long, and I asked him how we should know it if the former rebels should, at last, repent. “ They never will repent, and I don’t want ’em to repent, damn ’em,” was his reply.
Most of the men of this type whom I met are “ Southern Unionists,” or Northern men who were in the South before the war. A few of them are old antislavery men, who went to the South soon after the collapse of the Confederacy. They all exhibit almost precisely the same traits, and those whom I saw in Texas used many of the expressions which I had already heard from their brethren in Virginia and in Louisiana. They are, as a class, eminently conscientious, persistent, and sincere. They have the qualities which enable men to stand alone, and fight to the end for an idea or principle once espoused. These characteristics and the peculiar conditions and circumstances of the time gave to this class of men an influence, for some years after the war, out of all proportion to their number. They had the immense advantage of being on the ground, eye-witnesses of what was going on in the South, and they had the ear of the Northern people as nobody else could have. Many of them were correspondents of Northern journals, as some of them are still. They inspired public sentiment in the North, gave the key to journalism, spoke from the pulpit, supplied materials for political campaigns, and shaped national legislation and the course of successive national administrations. They did all this legitimately and of right, because they were the strongest and the most clear-seeing men on the held through those troubled years. They knew what they wanted, and had a distinct and coherent policy, while the nation weltered in helpless uncertainty. Although some of these men have no very delicate scruples about using falsehood as a weapon against the common enemy, regarding it as fair in war, I think they did not often feel any need of its aid. I doubt not they usually pictured the state of things at the South as they saw it, and they saw it as men of their type, dominated by their ideas, would necessarily see. They had the power ; the time gave them opportunity, and they used it. Of course they were always thoroughly and intensely partisan. To them, any attempt to look at things in the South “ impartially and without prejudice ” is the extreme of folly. “You don’t want to be ‘impartial ' in a battle; you want to put hot shot into the enemy’s magazine.” This was the remark of one of the principal men of this type in Virginia, when I told him that I had come to the South to see as much as possible, and to report accurately and impartially all that I could learn of the facts of the time ; and he gave me the parting injunction, “ Don’t believe anything the Southern people tell you.” These men are in quality invincible, like the forces of nature, irreconcilable and inevitable. They alone, of the participants in the struggles of the last sixteen years in the South, have not changed, have not abandoned a single position, nor modified in any degree their original opinions or policy. They will never accept the new order of things, the conditions of the new time in the South. They cannot be reasonably expected or required to do so. Their day is over, and their work is done. I salute them, and write this to their memory.