[This article was sent in advance of publication to several gentlemen whose position and experience especially qualify them to comment upon the assertions made and the suggestions offered. Among these correspondents were General S.C. Armstrong, at the head of the Normal and Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Va.; Colonel T. W. Higginson, author of Army Life in a Black Regiment; and Hon. D. H. Chamberlain, formerly governor of South Carolina: their comments appear as foot-notes. The editor regrets that, while Southern statesmen and others of distinction wrote with more or less freedom upon the subject of the article, their communications were confidential, and he is obliged to adopt their opinions as his own, when adding an occasional note. – Editor, Atlantic Monthly, 1884]
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When the civil war determined by its result the political position of the black people in the Southern States, there was a general belief among their friends that the race had thereby received a complete enfranchisement as American citizens; that they were made free to all our national inheritances; that all the problems of their future involved only questions of a detached nature, — such slight matters as their rights in hotels and railways, in fields of labor, or at the polling booths. But those who by their eagerness to bid the negro welcome to his new place in the state did so much credit to the spirit of hope and friendship of our time could not see the gravity of this problem. Never before in the history of peoples had so grave an experiment been tried as was then set about with a joyous confidence of success. Only their great military triumph could have given to our hard-minded, practical people such rash confidence. Here, on the one hand, was a people, whose written history shows that the way to the self-government on which alone a state can be founded is through slowly and toilfully gained lessons, handed from father to son, — lessons learned on hard tilled and often hard fought fields. The least knowledge of the way in which their own position in the world had been won would have made it clear that such a national character as theirs could be formed only by marvelous toil of generations after generations, and an almost equally marvelous good fortune that brought fruit to their labor. There, on the other hand, was a folk, bred first in a savagery that had never been broken by the least effort towards a higher state, and then in a slavery that tended almost as little to fit them for a place in the structure of a self-controlling society. Surely, the effort to blend these two peoples by a proclamation and a constitutional amendment will sound strangely in the time to come, when men see that they are what their fathers have made them, and that resolutions cannot help this rooted nature of man.