The Agricultural Land Scrip and the Colored People
New Era: January 22, 1874
My attention was attracted by an article in your issue of the 3d inst., wherein some doubts are expressed in regard to the facts of one or more of my assertions before the military companies and citizens of this city on the 1st inst. Your remarks were clothed in such kind and generous language that I consider a reply is not only invited, but would be gratifying to the many patrons of your columns. I rejoice that the day has arrived when even colored men can express themselves, interchange views and discuss the issues of the day through columns of Democratic papers, without having their motives traduced and themselves drenched with scurrilous invectives.
I did, in my speech before the citizens on the parade grounds, charge our Governor with injustice to my race, for the manner in which he disposed of the $242,000, known as the agricultural school fund, appropriated by the United States Congress the State of Georgia, for the use of the whole people, which you say, “ If such appropriation was ever made there are very few who have ever heard of it.” While I am aware that the people, as a mass, pay but little attention to either State or National appropriations, I had thought the act in question had been so thoroughly ventilated that the public was posted in regard to it. But as it appears I was mistaken, I thank you for the opportunity of sustaining the ground of my complaint through such a respectable organ.
If you will turn to page 503, vol. 12, United States Statutes-at-large, chapter 130, you will see that the act approved July 2, 1862, allows to each State 30,000 acres of public land for each Senator and Representative in Congress, and provides that the interest of the proceeds shall be forever held sacred, by each State availing itself of the benefits of said act, for the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one agricultural college in such State.
The State of Georgia at the time was entitled to seven Representatives and two Senators, of course, which gave her nine Congressmen, thus the act of ’62 alloted to her 270,000 acres of public lands.
But as the war was in operation at this time, nothing was done in securing the said lands. And as the time allowed the States to accept the provisions of the acts of 1862 was about to expire, the acts of April 14, 1864, (see vol. 13 page 47) and of July 23, 1866, (see vol. 44, page 208) both operate to extend the time allowed each State accepting the benefits of the first act down to July 23, 1869, and for establishing the college or colleges down to July 23, 1871.
Now, if we turn to the acts of the Georgia Legislature we will find, by an act approval December 12, 1866, that two thousand dollars were appropriated to the Governor to meet the expenses of receiving and disposing of said lands in accordance with the acts of Congress.
It does not appear, however, that Governor Jenkins ever consummated the object, but that it was accepted under the administration of Governor Bullock, some time in 1868 or ’69 and that acting Governor Conley sold the land for the use and benefit of the State for the sum of ninety cents per acre, which amounted to the aggregate of $243,000. But the money was not paid actually over to the State till since Governor Smith came into the executive chair.
But the great question is, has this money been received? It has, otherwise the Legislature of Georgia would not, in a resolution approved February 21, 1873, second paragraph, have used the following language, to wit: “And whereas the purchase money of said (agricultural scrip) scrip has been received and paid into the State Treasury,” &c. See publication laws of the State of Georgia at its session in January and February, 1873, page 67.
By authority if the act approved December 12, 1866, the Governor was made the absolute and sole dispenser of this $243,000, for the use and benefit of the State, for the act empowered him “to invest in like manner, as he may deem best, the proceeds said sale or sales in the bonds of this State,” &c.,” and disburse the interest of said in vestment for the support and maintenance of a college ,such as contemplated by act of Congress,” &c.
But did the Governor disburse it properly? He did not! Another act of Congress says in the most emphatic words, “There shall be no discrimination in its benefits,” &c. But in the face of this act, and in the face of his better judgment, the Governor gave every dollar of it to Franklin College at Athens, to establish and endow an agricultural department in that old time-honored seat of learning, where he knew no colored student could enter, and never will, without a great hubbud and confusion. But as I read in a Democratic paper last year, “Governor Smith may not know he is accelerating social equality by that act, for if all that money remains there, negro students are certain to enter those hall in a few years, to get their proportion of it.”
There is no excuse for not placing one-half of our share of the money where we could have access to its benefits. For there was the Atlanta University, (colored,) with three hundred students in it, with faculty possibly equal to Franklin, which would have been glad to have received it for our use; which University, too, the Georgia Legislature has recognized by passing an act appropriating eight thousand dollars per year, the same as they do for Franklin, but for some cause that has been withheld. When near forty (40) of us colored members were in the Legislature it was agreed between us and the white Democrat members that we would never bother Franklin University if the State would make an equal appropriation to our University, that is to say, eight thousand dollars to each annually. But for causes and reasons best known to himself the Governor fails to either pay over appropriation or to appoint an annual board of visitors, but to the white university he does all; and then he takes away from us our share of the United States land scrip.
This is, in substance at least, a plain and unvarnished statement of the case. There may be a few errors in the way I have itemized the different results, but the substance is the same. I shall make no animadversions or comments. I am willing to abide to public opinion. All we ask for is square right! Give us that, and you may chain our tongues, lock our mouths, and paralyze our pens; but as long that is withheld, we colored people are bound to protest against manifest injustice. It is customary for some to raise the bowl of social equality when these questions are broached; but this is not a question of social equality. We are not seeking to foist ourselves into white society; on the contrary, we are trying to avoid it. And if our white citizens deprecate such an ultimatum as much as they pretend, let them aid us by instructing their Senators and Representatives in the General Assembly to so legislate as to give each class their rights in the sphere they may choose to revolve.
But, treating us as the story says the Yankee treated the Indian will not do. They hunted together all day, and the time came to divide spoils, but they only had killed a turkey and a buzzard. The Yankee said, “Now Indian, you take the buzzard and I will take the turkey, or I will take the turkey and you can take the buzzard.” The Indian replied, ‘But Indian take buzzard every time.”
We, as colored people, only want our share of the turkey-nothing more, nothing less. Hoping all cause of complaint will soon be removed, and that justice will be administered to all,
I am, very truly,
January 5, 1874.