Civil Rights Bill
Christian Recorder: April 30, 1874
Mr. Editor:-- There is no question so absorbing to our people, as the Civil Rights Bill, now hanging fire in Congress. The reason this important meanness has lagged in the walls of Legislation so long, is doubtless attributable to many things. Prejudice, measures, and hate to the negro, doubtless have a large share in the reasons, which have thus far, protracted, final action in the case. But the most blame and negro soothing apology, is that “we are afraid to pass the bill, in the face of the contingences of the Fall election.” A leading Congressman writes me as follows, “The Southern members of the House and Senate, are very anxious to defer action on the Civil Rights Bill, till the next session of Congress. Then the Fall election will be over, and they will be more independent. They are afraid if we should pass the bill this spring, some indiscreet colored person would foolishly stir up an excitement, which would disgust the whites and drive them from us.” Now, if I could believe any of the few Republican representatives in Congress from Georgia, had been indulging in this accursed farrago; I would promise him a seat in heaven, before he received another in Congress, unless the Democrats sent him. Such sophistry, if really believed, is enough to brand them as both fools and cowards. Do they not know that the nation virtually adopted the Civil Rights Bill, when Grant was elected upon a platform pledged to its enactment.
Have they forgotten that every man who voted either for Grant or Greeley, voted Congress authority to pass that bill? So much so, that every Greeley democrat who votes against it in Congress is false to the Platform which he solemnly pledged himself to support, as much so, as a rant republican will be, who either voices against it or dodged it. No; the trouble is, there is a disposition to cater to democracy, and negro hate.
I see it, and have been seeing it for some time. All this parade over the corruptions and bad legislation of South Carolina, is to vitiate public sentiment with the negro. And to “show-up,” if they can, negro venality and incapacity; yet South Carolina has as good a code of laws, as any state in the Union, and far better than several: thus evening a calabre of intellectuality equal of intellectuality equal to any, if a legal standard is to form the test.
And I am sorry to say, that either President Grant, or the influence of Congressmen on the President, is making some frightful appointments to the most politico-influence offices of the government. I seldom animadvent upon officials either state or national, but I have labored too hard, suffered too much, and made too many narrow escapes, when chased by Ku-Klux, and other cut throats, to sit in silence while the party in which I invested my all, is frittered away, by a few backboneless, or evil designing men. The colored people of this country, had well open their eyes and mouths at once, as to wait in suspense. For I see danger ahead, and laugh, snarl or grin at it, if you chose; but mark, our silence much longer will result in our ruin.
The great ambition now is, who will, and who shall excel in palliating the late rebel element. In this I have no objection, provided it can be done honorably and justly. But when it involves injustice, treachery, and downright traitorism to the colored race, I would like to warn this nation, that you cannot afford to do it, and exist at the same time. The blood of the negro has had to mingle with the white man’s blood, in every war, this country has had; and in the last war, the demon of secession and division, withstood the world, till the negro with his blood and prowess helped subdue him on the field of battle. And the same race may be called again, to help their country in another distressful hour. But does anyone suppose, that the negro would heed the cry? Does anyone suppose that he would rush to arms, and pour out his blood like water again to save a country, which had repeatedly broken faith with him? Just image if you please, that Mr. Isaac Myers of Baltimore, was made a general, and sent to Galveston Texas, to command a brigade; and that General Myers was ordered in a Jim-crow car, or placed on the steerage deck of a vessel. Do you suppose he would go? When do you think General Myers would see Galveston? Not in forty years. And if he did, it would be prima facie evidence, of his unfitness for the position.
But coming back to the text. If Congress really means to pass our Civil Rights Bill and is afraid, what possible good can accrue by waiting? The sooner they pass it, the better, I should think. Then the people will know its law, and will conform to it. But as long as it hangs in suspense, it remains an eye sore to thousands, and the same horrible anticipations and nightmares which many indulged about freedom, will be indulged in regard to the terrific consequences of civil rights. Freedom was a great bug-bear till it came, so was our oath in the court house; so was voting, and so was every other reformatory measures. But as soon as it becomes an actual fact, so soon do the people forget all about it. The delay of the Civil Rights Bill, is going to do the Republican party more harm this fall than all their other blunders put together. Why? You ask. The answer is easy, Hundreds of white people who would vote the Republication ticket, will not least they he charged with voting for negro equality, & c. And on the other hand, hundreds of colored people will not vote at all. Because they have sworn they would never vote again, till they can vote under the aegis of Civil Rights. These rights are reasonable, humane and natural, the very instincts of our nature demand them: And the old maxim is. Jus naturea proprii es’ dielamen reclce rationis, quo scimus quid turpe, quid honestum, quid faciendum, quid fugiendum.
And those who may be foolish enough to presume for a moment that the negro does not comprehend that justitia est virlulum regina, and the halls of the national legislature can no more ignore it, than an individual will find themselves sadly mistaken. Again, the delay of that bill is only inviting opposition, it is giving time to every democratic cox-comb and petit-maître to collect his poison venom, sharpen his snaky fangs for another pandemonium “fustification.” Up to this time however, every argument against the bill, has been able met, and its assailants put to an inglorious flight, by colored men both in and out of Congress. And they may rely upon it that everyone they may adduce in the future, though they may write and speak under the inspiration of hell itself, will be equality dealt with, and as shamefully discomforted.
But these Southern representatives want Congress to wait till after the fall elections, so they can be more independent; yes, what kind of independence; independence to vote against it, if they are not re-nominated and re-elected I suppose. That is the kind of independence some are seeking.
Had President Grant recommended with half the force he did that bill, some measure of amnesty or pardon to the late confederates, there would have been a hundred pickauiny congressman presenting bills on the subject every day. And every little congressional seat-warmer, would have become the greatest statesman in this or any other age. Elliott, Edmunds, Butler, Dawes, and other leading statesmen, would have had to take backs seats, till these renowned statesmen had gotten through drenching the country with their grandiloquence.
I see from the papers that Congress is getting ready to pay its tribute of respect to Mr. Sumner. If Sumner could shake off the cerements of the grave, and speak, his lion like voice, would utter in fearful intonation “Mention not my name in Congress, till you pass my Civil Rights Bill.” Surely Congress will not go through the farce of memorial services with that bill hanging over their heads. If they do, they had better commemorate the death of the Republican party at the same time, for that day she will breathe her last. The party can no more contend with such a shock of inconsistencies, than I could with the flowing lava of Mount Vesuvius.
As it is late we close to commence again.
April 20, 1874