The abolition of slavery started the transportation of capital from white to black countries where slavery prevailed, with the same tremendous and awful consequences upon the laboring classes of the world which we see about us today. When raw material could not be raised in a country like the United States, it could be raised in the tropics and semi-tropics under a dictatorship of industry, commerce and manufacture and with no free farming class.
The competition of a slave-directed agriculture in the West Indies and South America, in Africa and Asia, eventually ruined the economic efficiency of agriculture in the United States and in Europe and precipitated the modern economic degradation of the white farmer, while it put into the hands of the owners of the machine such a monopoly of raw material that their domination of white labor was more and more complete.
What irritated the planter and made him charge the North and liberal Europe with hypocrisy, was the ethical implications of slavery. He was kept explaining a system of work which he insisted was no different in essence from that in vogue in Europe and the North. They and he were all exploiting labor. He did it by individual right; they by state law. They called their labor free, but after all, the laborer was only free to starve, if he did not work on their terms. They called this laborer a slave when his master was responsible for him from birth to death.
By 1865, there was strong testimony as to the efficiency of the Negro worker. “The question of the freedman being self-supporting no longer agitated the minds of careful observers.”
Carl Schurz felt warranted in 1865 in asserting: “Many freedmen – not single individuals, but whole ‘plantation gangs’ – are working well; other are not. The difference in their efficiency coincides in a great measure with a certain difference in the condition which they live. The conclusion lays near, that if the conditions under which they work well become general, their efficiency as free laborers will become general also, aside from individual exceptions. Certain it is, that by far the larger portion of the work done in the South is done by freedmen!”
Whitelaw Reid said in 1865: “Whoever has read what I have written about the cotton fields of St. Helena will need no assurance that another cardinal sin of the slave, his laziness – ‘inborn and ineradicable’ as we were always told by his masters- is likewise disappearing under the stimulus of freedom and necessity. Dishonesty and indolence, then, were the creation of slavery, not the necessary and constitutional faults of the Negro character.”
“Returning from St. Helena in 1865, Doctor Richard Fuller was asked what he thought of the experiment of free labor, as exhibited among his former slaves, and how it contrasted with the old order of things. ‘I never saw St. Helena look so well,’ was hist instant reply; ‘never saw as much land there under cultivation – never saw the same general evidences of prosperity, and never saw Negroes themselves appearing so well or so contented.’ […] Wherever poultry could be profitable peddled in the camps, cotton had not been grown, nor had the Negroes developed, so readily, into industrious and orderly communities.” [Taylor, Reconstruction in South Carolina, pp. 37,38.] Similar testimony came from Mississippi Valley and the West, and from Border States like Virginia and North Carolina.
This attitude of the poor white had in it as much fear and jealousy of Negroes as disaffection with slave barons. Economic rivalry with blacks became a new and living threat as the blacks became laborers and soldiers in a conquering Northern army. If the negro was to be free where would the poor white be? Why should he fight against the blacks and his victorious friends? The poor white not only began to desert and run away; but thousands followed the Negro into the Northern camps.
The very joy in the shout of emancipated Negroes was a threat. Who were these people? Were we not loosing a sort of gorilla into American freedom? Negroes were lazy, poor and ignorant. Moreover their ignorance wa more than the ignorance of whites. It was a biological, fundamental and ineradicable ignorance based on pronounced and eternal racial differences. The democracy and freedom open and possible to white men of English stock, and even to Continental Europeans, were unthinkable in the case of Africans.
“I made it a special point in most of the conversations I had with Southern men to inquire into their views with regard to this subject. I found, indeed, some gentleman of thought and liberal ideas who readily acknowledged the necessity of providing for the education of the colored people, and who declared themselves willing to cooperate to that end of the extent of their influence. Some planters thought of establishing schools on their estates, and others would have been glad to see measures taken to that effect by the people of the neighbourhoods in which they lived. But whenever I asked the question whether it might be hoped that the legislatures of their states or their county authorities would make provisions for Negro education, I never received an affirmative, and only in two or three instances feebly encouraging answers. At last I was forced to the conclusion that, aside from a small number of honorable exceptions, the popular prejudice is almost as bitterly set against the Negro’s having the advantage of education as it was when the Negro was a slave.”
Report from Carl Schulz to President Johnson, page 135.
The New York Herald says of Georgia:
“Springing naturally out of this disordered state of affairs is an organization of ‘regulators’, so called. Their numbers include many ex-Confederate cavaliers of the country, and their mission is to visit summary justice upon any offenders against the public peace. It is needless to say that their attention is largely directed to maintaining quiet and submission among the blacks. The shooting or stringing up of some obstreperous ‘nigger’ by the ‘regulators’ is so common an occurrence as to excite little remark. Nor is the work of proscription confined to the freedmen only. The ‘regulators’ go to the bottom of the matter, and strive to make it uncomfortably warm for any new settler with demoralizing innovations of wages for ‘niggers.'”
“In respectful earnestness I must say that if at the end all of the blood that has been shed and the treasure expended, the unfortunate Nego is to be left in the hands of his infuriated and disappointed former owners to legislate and fix his status, God help him, for his cup of bitterness will overflow indeed. Was ever such a policy conceived in the brain of men before?”
Resident of Mississippi, page 140.
Although he was the Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, too, in many respects, was looking backward toward the past. Lincoln’s solution for the Negro problem was colonization. In this respect he went back to the early nineteenth century when the American Colonization Society was formed, with what proved to be two antagonistic objects: The first was the philanthropic object of removing the Negro to Africa and starting hum on the road to an independent culture in his own fatherland. The second and more influential object was to get rid of the free Negro in the United States so as to make color caste the permanent foundation of American Negro slavery. The contradiction of these two objects was the real cause of the failure of colonization, since it early incurred the bitter opposition of both Abolitionist and Negro leaders. The result of the movement was the establishment of Liberia in an inhospitable land and without adequate capital and leadership. The survival of that little country to our day is one of the miracles of Negro effort, despite all of the propaganda of criticism that has been leveled against that country.
page 145, 146.
The causes of this jubilation were however, dangerously diverse; the Abolitionists saw mainly the determination of Lincoln utterly to abolish slavery. This had not been clear before. Lincoln had never been an Abolitionist; he had never believed in full Negro citizenship; he had tried desperately to win the war without Negro soldiers, and he had emancipated the slaves only on account of military necessity. On the other hand, Lincoln learned; he stood now for abolishing slavery forever; he gave full credit and praise to Negro soldiers; and he was soon to face the problem of Negro citizenship.
In the South there was absence of any leadership corresponding in breadth and courage to that of Abraham Lincoln. Here comes the penalty of which a land pays when it stifles free speech and free discussion and turns itself over ro propaganda. It does not make any difference if at the time the things advocated are absolutely right, the nation, nevertheless, becomes morally emasculated and mentally hogtied, and cannot evolve that healthy difference of opinion which leads to the discovery of truth under changing conditions.