Immagini della pagina

agriculture may find unobstructed scope; where so many results, moral, political, and pecuniary, may be at once achieved; and where a Christian nation, with its multifarious agencies for diffusing civilization, may be built up. If American capitalists desired to engage in agriculture, and to produce the far-famed Liberia coffee or any other tropical product, they could themselves select and send out able hands from America for this work, who, while building up a congenial home for themselves and their children, and making "the wilderness and solitary place glad" for their presence, would be also enlarging the wealth of their patrons.

At a banquet given in Paris on the 19th of May, 1879, in commemoration of the abolition of slavery, M. Victor Hugo said: "In the nineteenth century the white man has made the negro a man, and in the twentieth century Europe will make Africa a world."

We admire the epigrammatic form of this sentence, but we venture to disagree with the sentiment it contains. As philosopher and prophet, the great poet is in this instance mistaken. Poetical inspirations do not always suggest sound political lessons. But what he said further on in his speech should be carefully pondered by all intelligent negroes every-where. He said:

The day had come for the vast continent which alone among the five parts of the world had no history to be reformed by Europeans. The Mediterranean was a lake of civilization, and it was the duty of Greece and of Italy, of France and of Spain, the four countries that occupied its northern shores, to recollect that a vast territory lay unredeemed on the opposite coast. En

fland was also worthy to take part, in the great work. She, like 'ranee, was one of the great free nations of the globe, and, like France, she had begun the colonization and civilization of Africa. The latter held the north and east, the former the south and the west. America had joined in the task, and Italy was ready to do so. This showed the unity of spirit which pervaded the peoples of the world. M. Victor Hugo then described the magnificent scenery, the fertility, and the navigable rivers of Central Africa in eloquent language, and concluded by exhorting the European nations to occupy this land offered to them by God, to build towns, to make roads, to cultivate the earth, to mtroduce trade and commerce, to preach peace and concord, so that the new continent should not be the scene of strife, but, free from priuces and priests, should enjoy the blessings of fraternity.*

• "Daily Telegraph," May 20.

It is really high time that a " unity of spirit should pervade the peoples of the world " for -the regeneration of a continent Bo long despoiled by the unity or consent of these same peoples. Thinking negroes should ask themselves what part they will take in this magnificent work, the work of reclaiming a continent—their own continent. In what way will they illustrate their participation in the "unity of spirit" which pervades the peoples for the redemption of their fatherland? Compared to this, most of the questions with which they are endeavoring to grapple in the United Spates sink into insignificance. The local can bear no comparison to the universal, nor the temporary to the eternal.

Victor Hugo exhorts the European nations to " occupy this land offered to them by God." He has forgotten the prudent advice of Caesar to the ancestors'of those nations against invading Africa. The Europeans can hold the domain "offered to them " by-only a precarious tenure. But it already belongs to the exiled negro. It is his by creation and inheritance. Every man, woman, and child of the negro race out of Africa ought to thank God for this glorious heritage, and hasten to possess it: a field for the physical, moral, and spiritual development of the negro, where he will live under the influence of his freshest inspirations; where, with the simple shield of faith in God and in his race, and with the sword of the spirit of progress, he will grow and thrive; where, with his sympathetie heart, he will catch stray, far-off tones, inaudible to the foreigner, which, penetrating through the local air, will waken chords in his nature now unknown to the world and unsuspected even by himself. He will come under the influence of powers which will haunt him with strange visions and indicate the way he should go. Emerson says:

A man's genius, the quality fhat differences him from every other, the susceptibility to one class of influences, the selection of what is fit for him, the rejection of what is unfit, determines for him the character of the universe. A man is a method, a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gathering his like to him wherever he goes. He takes only his own out of the multiplicity that sweeps and circles round him. 1 He is like one of those booms which are set out from the shore on rivers to catch drift-wood, or like the loadstone among splinters of steel. ... A few anecdotes, a few traits of character, manners, face, a few incidents, have an emphasis in your memory out of all proportion to their apparent significance, if you measure them by the ordinary standards. 'They relate to your gift. Let them have their weight, and do not reject them and cast about for illustration and facts more useful to literature. What your heart thinks great is great. The soul's emphasis is always right.*

When Professor Hartranft says, "Let us solve the negro problem right here," in America, what "problem" does he refer to? And how does he propose to solve the great questions of the African race in the United States? There are certain problems at times set before a people by accidental and temporary circumstances; these may admit of solution by extraneous help. There are others which grow out of their natural, inherent, and unchangeable relation to the outside world or the universe; these are to be solved by the people themselves under favoring circumstances; the trusts and responsibilities winch these impose are special, incommunicable, and inalienable. But probably Professor Hartranft means the problem pressing upon the white man in his relations to the negro; the problem of his duty toward the "despised" race—his power to arrive at a satisfactory solution being a "test" of his civilization. In regard to this, of course, we can suggest nothing. But from all we can gather it appears that the chief problem held up to the negro for his solution by his friends in America is that of "conquering the caste prejudices of the whites" around him; of becoming, as the usual phrase is, "a man among men," (white men;) of " wiping out the color line," etc. Now, we beg most respectfully, with all the earnestness and deference becoming the subject, and with the serious emphasis which we know the enlightened of the race would authorize us to employ, to assure our white friends that these are matters for which the negro, pure and simple, when cultivated up to Mr. Heywood's itandard, will care very little. He will then feel that in his own race-groove and on his own continent he has a work to accomplish equal to that of the European, and that caste or race prejudices are as natural to him as to the white man. The passion for equality does not always exert an elevating influence on the character, but may be positively mischievous, where to produce or sustain it certain sentiments in the mind are fiat

• The Prose 'Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. i, p. 292.

tened by holding the higher attributes in abeyance, or brought into prominence at the expense of judgment and love of truth'.

Ripe scholarship and disciplined thought, even under the training he is receiving in America, will give to the negro a freshness, a manliness, a hopefulness, and a faith which will deliver him from the tyranny of his surroundings, widen his view of his own capabilities, make him conscious of belonging, to a race which has rich things in store for the world, and glo^ rify his heart with a thousand strange and fruitful sympathies and with endless heroic aspirations..

The negro who is really restless on the subject of caste in America is he who, from defective culture or lack of culture^, has not half found out the calling of his race; who, consequently, unduly impressed by his surroundings, is eager for im>mediate success, and anxious to play his part well amid the circumstances in which he finds himself—aiming at technical skilly which is popular or fashionable, rather than artistic life, which? may be unique and unpopular. Fascinated by the present, he cannot conceive any thing else, and harasses himself with the ever-recurring and ever-unsatisfying and unsatisfactory task of imitating imitators. The negro raised to Mr. Heywood's standard will feel the force of Emerson's words:

"We like only such actions as have already long had the praise' of men, and do not perceive that any thing man can do may be' divinely done. We think greatness entailed or organized in some places, or duties in certain offices or occasions, and do not see that Paganini can extract rapture from a catgut, and Eulenstein from a jew's-harp, and a limber-fingered lad out of shreds of paper with his scissors, and Landseer out of swine, and the hero outof the pitiful habitation and company in which he was hidden. What we call obscure condition or vulgar society is that condition and society whose poetry is not yet written, but which you shall presently make as enviable and renowned as any.*

Recognizing the force of these truths, the cultivated negro will have insight enough to discover his exact relation to surrounding superficial phenomena, and self-respect and independence enough to acknowledge the fact that his peculiar work cannot be done under the overshadowing influence of a foreign race; that there he cannot " communicate himself to others in his full stature and -proportion ;" and, feeling this, he will turn

• "Prose Works," vol. ii, p. 291.

to the fatherland, to " the one direction in which all space is open to him," and under the conviction that " he has faculties inviting him thither to endless exertion."

The teachers of the negro in America, cannot have failed to observe that there seems always to be in the minds of their pupil some reservation which they cannot overcome, some hesitancy which they cannot explain, but which they attribute to a sort of modesty growing out of a sense of inferiority in the pupil. But the fact is, that, under the influence of the means of culture to which he has access, his race-consciousness is kindled into active and sensitive life, and he receives under mental protest many a dogma which for European growth and development is orthodox and inspiring. Not only the physical and metaphysical teachings often puzzle and contradict his deepest feelings, but even the Scriptures are at times a perplexity to him; and as he becomes acquainted with the original languages in which they were written, he feels that there is in them a temporary and local element which must be separated from the permanent and universal before the sacred records can utter what in the depths of his being he wants to .say. But in America he will never be able to make the discrimination that will be useful to him. He will never be' able to translate the letter, which is often adapted to another age and race, into the spirit of his own times and race. He is, therefore, lonely with his secret, with which nothing around him seems to sympathize. Development is denied him; he cannot expand. lie tills his belly with theories and dogmas which to him are like the dry, hard husk. He cannot digest them, and they afford him no nourishment. Nearly every thing he produces comes from the memory; very little flows fresh from the heart. The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States is the result, in party of just such experiences on the part of the Bishop Al»lens of a former day. They found that the waters flowing from the fountain which God had opened in their- soul were Blackened and half-choked by being forced through the pent-np and artificial channels provided for them in the white Churches, and they established that noble organization—the admiration of negroes every-where, which during the last fifty years has attained such wonderful growth—that the living streams of their unfettered nature might wind their own sweet way along the

« IndietroContinua »