President Harrison’s Administration
Christian Recorder: September 11, 1890
Mr. Editor: I am trying with all my might not to become a regular contributor to THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER again: for if I am lacking in faithfulness to anything involving privilege and duty, it is certainly not to the columns of THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER, as I have been a contributor to its columns since march 1860. Besides I have so much scribbling to do in other directions that I am willing to assign my place to younger men and more active hands.
But riding upon the cars yesterday morning from Philadelphia to New York, in company with a colored gentleman of some parts and notoriety, I was amazed at the unmerciful castigation he was giving the administration of President Harrison. This is about the forty ninth time I have heard these unjust criticisms. Everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I do not worship at the shrine of white. I am satisfied with my color, my hair, my lips and my heels, and because I am not any special worshipper of white I favor the practical unification of black, even if it involves localization in Africa. But I would like to ask some of Mr. Harrison’s colored critics in what particular have you found him wanting. It is presumed you have weighed him, analyzed him, and in every respect subjected him to the crucible of examination. He is evidently the most impartial President that has been in the White House since the death of Mr. Lincoln. He has appointed more colored men in office since Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur and Cleveland all put together. And his appointments in the aggregate have been more honorable. He has appointed colored men where he knew they had to superintend white men and women. Nor has he hesitated or staggered to do so. Even those who went in under the civil commission, without it being known they were as black as ebony, when they succeeded in the examinational contest, and efforts have been made to reject them on the account of color, Mr. Harrison and his cabinet both have maintained their right to be put in possession of what they have achieved. Again he has said more and said it infinitely stronger in behalf of the Negro than all the other presidents put together, from the day that Mr. Lincoln issued his emancipation proclamation. Nor did he wince to say what was just, right and honorable before God and man, when it comprehended those civil phases about which so many white people are sensitive.
Then again, look how he has fought for the Election Bill, now before the United States Senate, and he is still contending for its passage, and everybody knows that the Election Bill is specifically intended to practicalize the enfranchisement of the Negro. And it is upon that ground it meets with so much opposition from Democrats and hypocritical Republicans. Now I ask this coterie of grumblings and presidential critics for a parallel in any of the nation’s executives. I deny that there are any living or dead. Mr. Harrison stands alone in his manifestations or regard for the black man.
True, I did think that he should have offered Mr. Frederick Douglas something higher than the Haytien ministership, which in some instances, have been filled by some colored gentlemen of limited notoriety. As Mr. Douglass is looked upon as king of the colored race in this country, I did hope in consideration of the eight or more millions he represented, he would have been given a place sufficiently exalted to have shown the highest respect to these millions. But when Mr. Douglas accepted of the President’s proffer I had no more to say, as he unquestionably understood the magnitude of the position better than I, but if any deficit could be attributed to this appointment, the president compensated for it in other appointments. Moreover, where and when have we, as a race made any demand upon the President beyond a few personal endorsements for individual friends. What united effort have we made, as a people, for exalted recognition? The truth is we have made none, and considering our apathy in this direction, we have everything to be proud of.
The President has not only done well, but grandly, all things considered. And every colored man in the country should clamor for his renomination and exhaust his power in trying to re-elect him.
I am aware Mr. Harrison is regarded some disfavor by a class of white republican politicians because he has not given office to everybody who desired it—white politicians who never said a word in the interest of black men since they breathed the breath of life, but if we are going to allow their babble to influence us negatively then we are too stupid to have friends, for we have no conception of their value. Unfortunately for us, as a race, we cannot or do not distinguish between a man whom the newspapers popularize and those who befriend us. If the white newspapers of the country declare a man to be great, we join in his laudation, whether he has said a word or written a line in our behalf or not.
We actually vie with each other in naming clubs, associations and our children after them, when he is absolutely and alone the white man’s hero. I fully realize the fact that Mr. Harrison has not given our pro rata of offices, nor do I expect them under a hundred years if then, but when I see him doing so much more than any President has ever done, as one I am willing to throw my hat up and say; “God save President Harrison.” The gentleman with whom I had the conversation complained about the President appointing such inferior colored men in some instances to office. Possibly he has, but what does he know about these men beyond their letters of recommendation? I would wager anything I possess that the parties to whom he referred were well and numerously recommended to the President. Moreover, the white people of this country do not discriminate between us; a colored man is a colored man to them, provided he is represented to be honest and industrious. Indeed we do not discriminate between ourselves, we scarcely do it in our social relations, good, bad and indifferent all mingle indiscriminately. When we are so homologous ourselves is it presumed the President must run the nation, and distinguish between our tribal lines better than we do ourselves? It is folly to so presume.
In conclusion, President Harrison is entitled to the respect and gratitude of our race, and the colored people of this country owe it to their manhood and honor to uphold his hand and show their gratitude by working for his re-election; otherwise, we are a set of ingrates. And all that I have said in regard to President Harrison may be said in the main of his cabinet, for this is practically a Negro administration, and we are blind if we cannot see it. While my position as a Bishop presumably puts me out of politics, I am strongly inclined to seek membership in the next national republican nomination convention, just for the purpose of trying to renominate Harrison for the presidency. The time has come when we are fools if we do not look out and try to put our friends in such positions as will enable them to help us. And as I look abroad over this great land and analyze the principles of the famous men now in front, I see no one beyond President Harrison and Justice Harlan that we can put much faith in. I do not mean that others may not have true hearts and be friendly disposed toward us, but if my observations are not greatly at fault they are very few.
The only two men that have put themselves upon unquestionable record in this particular are Harrison and Harlan. The Negro is now in a condition, around which gloomy contingences focalize. This Negro problem, with its frightful grimaces which confront us, is more than a temporary phantom. There is carnage and death in it, if we are not watchful. And instead of joining in with political malcontents to cry down our friends, we had better hold them up, for I very much fear we will need them soon.