Bricks Without Straw
Albion W. Tourgee
Part 9 out of 9
In Nimbus there was a change even more apparent. Gray hairs,
a bowed form, a furrowed face, and that sort of furtive wildness
which characterizes the man long hunted by his enemies, had taken
the place of his former unfearing, bull-fronted ruggedness. His
spirit was broken. He no longer looked to the future with abounding
hope, careless of its dangers.
"Yer's growed away from me, Bre'er 'Liab," he said at length, when
they had held each other's hands and looked into each other's faces
for a long time. "Yer wouldn't know how ter take a holt o' Nimbus
ter hev him tote yer roun', now. Yer's growed away from him--clean
away," he added sadly.
"You, too, have changed, Brother Nimbus," said Eliab soothingly.
"Yes, I'se changed, ob co'se; but not as you hez, Bre'er 'Liab. Dis
h'yer ole shell hez changed. Nimbus couldn't tote yer roun' like
he used. I'se hed a hard time--a hard time, 'Liab, an' I ain't
nuffin' like de man, I used ter be; but I hain't changed inside
like you hez. I'se jes de same ole Nimbus dat I allus wuz--jes
de same, only kinder broke down in sperrit, Bre'er 'Liab. I hain't
growed ez you hev. I hain't no mo' man dan I was den--not so much,
in fac'. I don't keer now no mo' 'bout what's a-gwine ter be. I'se
an' ole man, 'Liab--an' ole man, of I is young."
That night he told his story to a breathless auditory.
"Yes, Bre'er 'Liab, dar's a heap o' t'ings happened sence dat ar
mornin' I lef' you h'yer wid Marse Hesden. Yer see, I went back
fust whar I'd lef Berry, an' we tuk an' druv de mule an' carry-all
inter a big pine thicket, down by de ribber, an' dar we stays all
day mighty close; only once, when I went out by de road an' sees
Miss Mollie ridin' by. I calls out to her jest ez loudez I dared
to; but, la sakes! she didn't h'year me."
"Was that you, Nimbus?" asked Mollie, turning from a bright-eyed
successor to little Hildreth, whom she had been proudly caressing.
"I thought I heard some one call me, but did not think of its being
you. I am so sorry! I stopped and looked, but could see nothing."
"No, you didn't see me, Miss Mollie, but it done me a power o'
good ter see _you_. I knowed yer was gwine ter Red Wing, an'
yer'd take keer on an' advise dem ez wuz left dar. Wal, dat night
we went back an' got the 'backer out o' de barn. I tuk a look
roun' de house, an' went ter de smoke-house, an' got a ham of meat
an' some other t'ings. I 'llowed dat 'Gena'd know I'd been dar,
but didn't dare ter say nuffin' ter nobody, fer fear de sheriff's
folks mout be a watchin' roun'. I 'llowed dey'd hev out a warrant
for me, an' p'raps fer Berry too, on account o' what we'd done de
"They never did," said Hesden.
"Yer don't tell me!" exclaimed Nimbus, in surprise.
"No. There has never been any criminal process against you, except
for enticing Berry away from old Granville Sykes," said Hesden.
"Wal," responded Nimbus, "t'was all de same. I t'ought dey would.
De udder wuz 'nough, dough. Ef dey could once cotch me on dat, I
reckon dey could hev hung me fer nuffin', fer dat matter."
"It was a very wise thing in you to leave the country," said Hesden.
"There is no doubt of that."
"T'ank ye, Marse Hesden, t'ank ye," said Nimbus. "I'se glad ter
know I hain't been a fool allus, ef I is now. But now I t'inks on't,
Marse Hesden, I'd like ter know what come of dem men dat 'Gena an'
me put our marks on dat night."
"One of them died a year or two afterward--was never well after
that night--and the other is here, alive and well, with a queer
seam down the middle of his face," said Hesden.
"Died, yer say?" said Nimbus. "Wal, I'se right sorry, but he lived
a heap longer nor Bre'er 'Liab would, ef I hadn't come in jest
about dat time."
"Yes, indeed," said Eliab, as he extended his hand to his old
"Wal," continued Nimbus, "we went on ter Wellsboro, an' dar we
sold de 'backer. Den we kinder divided up. I tuk most o' de money
an' went on South, an' Berry tuk de mule an' carry-all an' started
fer his home in Hanson County. I tuk de cars an' went on, a-stoppin'
at one place an' anodder, an' a wukkin' a little h'yer an' dar,
but jest a-'spectin' ebbery minnit ter be gobbled up by a officer
an' brought back h'yer. I'd heard dat Texas wuz a good place fer
dem ter go ter dat didn't want nobody ter find 'em; so I sot out
ter go dar. When I got ez fur ez Fairfax, in Louisiana, I was tuk
down wid de fever, an' fer nigh 'bout six month I wa'ant ob no account
whatebber. An' who yer tink tuk keer ob me den, Marse Hesden?"
"I am sure I don't know," was the reply.
"No, yer wouldn't nebber guess," said Nimbus; "but twa'n't nobody
else but my old mammy, Lorency."
"You don't say! Well, that was strange," said Hesden.
"It was quare, Marse Hesden. She was gittin' on to be a old woman
den. She's dead sence. Yer see, she knowed me by my name, an' she
tuk keer on me, else I'd nebber been here ter tell on't. Atter I got
better like, she sorter persuaded me ter stay dar. I wuz powerful
homesick, an' wanted ter h'year from 'Gena an' de chillen, an'
ef I'd hed money 'nough left, I'd a come straight back h'yer; but
what with travellin' an' doctors' bills, an' de like, I hadn't nary
cent. Den I couldn't leave my ole mammy, nuther. She'd hed a hard
time sence de wah, a-wukkin' fer herself all alone, an' I wuz boun'
ter help her all I could. I got a man to write ter Miss Mollie;
but de letter come back sayin' she wa'n't h'yer no mo'. Den I got
him to write ter whar she'd been afo' she come South; but that come
"Why did you not write to me?" said Hesden.
"Wal," said Nimbus, with some confusion, "I wuz afeared ter do it,
Marse Hesden. I wuz afeared yer mout hev turned agin me. I dunno
why 'twuz, but I wuz mighty skeered ob enny white folks, 'ceptin'
Miss Mollie h'yer. So I made it up wid mammy, dat we should wuk
on till we'd got 'nough ter come back; an' den we'd come, an' I'd
stop at some place whar I wa'n't knowed, an' let her come h'yer
an' see how t'ings wuz.
"I'd jest about got ter dat pint, when I hed anodder pull-back. Yer
see, dar wuz two men, both claimed ter be sheriff o' dat parish.
Dat was--let me see, dat was jes de tenth yeah atter de S'render,
fo' years alter I left h'yer. One on 'em, ez near ez I could make
out, was app'inted by de Guv'ner, an' t'odder by a man dat claimed
ter be Guv'ner. De fust one called on de cullu'd men ter help him
hold de Court House an' keep t'ings a-gwine on right; an' de t'odder,
he raised a little army an' come agin' us. I'd been a sojer, yer
know, an' I t'ought I wuz bound ter stan' up fer de guv'ment. So
I went in ter fight wid de rest. We t'rew up some bres'wuks, an'
when dey druv us outen dem we fell back inter de Court House. Den
dar come a boat load o' white folks down from Sweevepo't, an' we
hed a hard time a-fightin' on 'em. Lots ob us got killed, an' some
o' dem. We hadn't many guns ner much ammunition. It war powerful
hot, an' water wuz skeerce.
"So, atter a while, we sent a flag o' truce, an' 'greed ter s'render
ebberyting, on condition dat dey wouldn't hurt us no mo'. Jest ez
quick ez we gib up dey tuk us all pris'ners. Dar was twenty-sebben
in de squad I wuz wid. 'Long a while atter dark, dey tuk us out
an' marched us off, wid a guard on each side. We hadn't gone more'n
two or t'ree hundred yards afo' de guard begun ter shoot at us. Dey
hit me in t'ree places, an' I fell down an' rolled inter a ditch
by de roadside, kinder under de weeds like. Atter a while I sorter
come ter myself an' crawled off fru de weeds ter de bushes. Nex'
day I got a chance ter send word ter mammy, an' she come an' nussed
me till we managed ter slip away from dar."
"Poor Nimbus!" said Mollie, weeping. "You have had a hard time
"Not so bad as de odders," was the reply. "Dar wuz only two on us
dat got away at all. The rest wuz all killed."
"Yes," said Hesden, "I remember that affair. It was a horrible
thing. When will our Southern people learn wisdom!"
"I dunno dat, Marse Hesden," said Nimbus, "but I do know dat de
cullu'd folks is larnin' enough ter git outen dat. You jes mark my
words, ef dese t'ings keep a-gwine on, niggers'll be skeerce in
dis kentry purty soon. We can't be worse off, go whar we will, an'
I jes count a cullu'd man a fool dat don't pole out an' git away
jest ez soon ez he finds a road cut out dat he kin trabbel on."
"But that was three years ago, Nimbus," said Hesden. "Where have
you been since?"
"Wal, yer see, atter dat," said Nimbus, "we wuz afeared ter stay
dar any mo'. So we went ober inter Miss'ippi, mammy an' me, an'
went ter wuk agin. I wasn't berry strong, but we wukked hard an'
libbed hard ter git money ter come back wid. Mammy wuz powerful
anxious ter git back h'yer afo' she died. We got along tollable-like,
till de cotting wuz about all picked, an' hadn't drawed no wages
at all, to speak on. Den, one day, de boss man on de plantation,
he picked a quarrel wid mammy 'bout de wuk, an' presently hit her
ober her ole gray head wid his cane. I couldn't stan' dat, nohow,
so I struck him, an' we hed a fight. I warn't nuffin' ter what I
war once, but dar war a power o' strength in me yet, ez he found
"Dey tuk me up an' carried me ter jail, an' when de court come on,
my ole mammy wuz dead; so I couldn't prove she war my mammy, an'
I don't 'llow 'twould hev made enny difference ef I had. The jury
said I war guilty, an' de judge fined me a hundred dollars an' de
costs, an' sed I wuz ter be hired out at auction ter pay de fine,
an' costs, an' sech like. So I wuz auctioned off, an' brought
twenty-five cents a day. 'Cordin' ter de law, I hed ter wuk two
days ter make up my keep fer ebbery one I lost. I war sick an'
low-sperrited, an' hadn't no heart ter wuk, so I lost a heap o'
days. Den I run away once or twice, but dey cotch me, an' brought
me back. So I kep' losin' time, an' didn't git clean away till 'bout
four months ago. Sence den I'se been wukkin' my way back, jes dat
skeery dat I dassent hardly walk de roads fer fear I'd be tuk up
agin. But I felt jes like my ole mammy dat wanted ter come back
h'yer ter die."
"But you are not going to die," said Mollie, smiling through her
tears. "Your plantation is all right. We will send for 'Gena and
the children, and you and Eliab can live again at Red Wing and be
"I don't want ter lib dar, Miss Mollie," said Nimbus. "I ain't
a-gwine ter die, ez you say; but I don't want ter lib h'yer, ner
don't want my chillen ter. I want 'em ter lib whar dey kin be free,
an' hev 'bout half a white man's chance, ennyhow."
"But what about Red Wing?" asked Hesden.
"I'd like ter see it once mo'," said the broken-hearted man, while
the tears ran down his face. "I 'llowed once that I'd hab a heap
o' comfort dar in my ole days. But dat's all passed an' gone,
now--passed an' gone! I'll tell yer what, Marse Hesden, I allus
'llowed fer Bre'er 'Liab ter hev half o' dat plantation. Now yer
jes makes out de papers an' let him hev de whole on't, an' I goes
ter Kansas wid 'Gena."
"No, no, Nimbus," said Eliab; "I could not consent--"
"Yes yer kin, 'Liab," said Nimbus quickly, with some of his old-time
arrogance. "Yer kin an' yer will. You kin use dat er trac' o'
lan' an' make it wuth sunthin' ter our people, an' I can't. So, yer
sees, I'll jes be a-doin' my sheer, an' I'll allus t'ink, when I
hears how yer's gittin' along an' a-doin' good, dat I'se a pardner
wid ye in de wuk o' gibbin' light ter our people, so dat dey'll
know how ter be free an' keep free forebber an' ebber. Amen!"
The listeners echoed his "amen," and Eliab, flinging himself into
the arms of Nimbus, by whom he had been sitting, and whose hand
he had held during the entire narrative, buried his face upon his
breast and wept.
Hesden and Mollie were on their way homeward from Eupolia, where
they had inspected their property and had seen Nimbus united with
his family and settled for a new and more hopeful start in life.
They had reached that wonderful young city of seventy-seven hills
which faces toward free Kansas and reluctantly bears the ban which
slavery put upon Missouri. While they waited for their train in
the crowded depot in which the great ever-welcoming far West meets
and first shakes hands with ever-swarming East, they strolled about
among the shifting crowd.
Soon they came upon a dusky group whose bags and bundles, variegated
attire, and unmistakable speech showed that they were a party of
those misguided creatures who were abandoning the delights of the
South for the untried horrors of a life upon the plains of Kansas.
These were of all ages, from the infant in arms to the decrepit
patriarch, and of every shade of color, from Saxon fairness with
blue eyes and brown hair to ebon blackness. They were telling
their stories to a circle of curious listeners. There was no lack
of variety of incident, but a wonderful similarity of motive assigned
for the exodus they had undertaken.
There were ninety-four of them, and they came from five different
States--Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. They
had started without preconcert, and were unacquainted with each
other until they had collected into one body as the lines of travel
converged on the route to Kansas. A few of the younger ones said
that they had come because they had heard that Kansas was a country
where there was plenty of work and good wages, and where a colored
man could get pay for what he did. Others told strange tales
of injustice and privation. Some, in explanation of their evident
poverty, showed the contracts under which they had labored. Some
told of personal outrage, of rights withheld, and of law curiously
diverted from the ends of justice to the promotion of wrong. By far
the greater number of them, however, declared their purpose to be
to find a place where their children could grow up free, receive
education, and have "a white man's chance" in the struggle of life.
They did not expect ease or affluence themselves, but for their
offspring they craved liberty, knowledge, and a fair start.
While Hesden and Mollie stood watching this group, with the interest
one always feels in that which reminds him of home, seeing in
these people the forerunners of a movement which promised to assume
astounding proportions in the near future, they were startled by
an exclamation from one of the party:
"Wall, I declar'! Ef dar ain't Miss Mollie--an' 'fore God, Marse
Hesden, too!" Stumbling over the scattered bundles in his way, and
pushing aside those who stood around, Berry Lawson scrambled into
the presence of the travelers, bowing and scraping, and chuckling
with delight; a battered wool hat in one hand, a shocking assortment
of dilapidated clothing upon his person, but his face glowing with
honest good-nature, and his tones resonant of fun, as if care and
he had always been strangers.
"How d'ye, Miss Mollie--sah'vent, Marse Hesden. I 'llow I must be
gittin' putty nigh ter de promised lan' when I sees you once mo'.
Yah, yah! Yer hain't done forgot Berry, I s'pose? Kase ef yer hez,
I'll jes hev ter whistle a chune ter call myself ter mind. Jes,
fer instance now, like dis h'yer."
Then raising his hands and swaying his body in easy accompaniment,
he began to imitate the mocking-bird in his mimicry of his feathered
companions. He was very proud of this accomplishment, and his
performance soon drew attention from all parts of the crowded depot.
Noticing this, Hesden said,
"There, there, Berry; that will do. There is no doubt as to your
identity. We both believe that nobody but Berry Lawson could do
that, and are very glad to see you." Mollie smiled assent.
"T'ank ye, sah. Much obleeged fer de compliment. Hope I see yer
well, an' Miss Mollie de same. Yer do me proud, both on yer," said
Berry, bowing and scraping again, making a ball of his old hat,
sidling restlessly back and forth, and displaying all the limpsy
litheness of his figure, in his embarrassed attempts to show his
enjoyment. "'Pears like yer's trabblin' in company," he added, with
a glance at Mollie's hand resting on Hesden's arm.
"Yes," said Hesden good-naturedly; "Miss Mollie is Mrs. Le Moyne
"Yer don't say!" said Berry, in surprise. "Der Lo'd an' der nation,
what will happen next? Miss Mollie an' Marse Hesden done married
an' a-meetin' up wid Berry out h'yer on de berry edge o' de kingdom!
Jest ez soon hab expected to a' seen de vanguard o' de resurrection.
Yer orter be mighty proud, Marse Hesden. We used ter t'ink, 'bout
Red Wing, dat dar wa'n't nary man dat ebber cast a shadder good
'nough fer Miss Mollie."
"And so there isn't," said Hesden, laughing, "But we can't stand
here and talk all day. Where are you from?"
"Whar's I frum? Ebbery place on de green yairth, Marse Hesden,
'ceptin' dis one, whar dey hez ter shoe de goats fer ter help 'em
climb de bluffs; an' please de Lo'd I'll be from h'yer jest es soon
ez de train come's 'long dat's 'boun' fer de happy land of Canaan.'"
"We shall have to stop over, dear," said Hesden to his wife.
"There's no doing anything with Berry in the time we have between
the trains. Have you any baggage?" he asked of Berry,
"Baggage? Dat I hab--a whole handkercher full o' clean clo'es--jest
ez soon ez dey's been washed, yer know. Yah, yah!"
"Where are you going?"
"Whar's I gwine? Gwine West, ter grow up wid de kentry, Marse
Hesden." "There, there, take your bundle and come along."
"All right, Marse Hesden. Jest ez soon wuk fer you ez ennybody.
Good-by, folkses," said he, waving his hat to his late traveling
companions. "I'se mighty sorry to leave yer, but biz is biz, yer
know, an' I'se got a job. Wish yer good luck, all on yer. Jes let
'em know I'm on der way, will yer?
Ef yo' gits dar afo' I do,
Jes tell 'em I'se a-comin' too,"
he sang, as he followed Hesden and Mollie out of the depot, amid
the laughter of the crowd which had gathered about them. Their
baggage was soon removed from the platform, and, with Berry on the
seat with the driver, they went to the hotel. Then, taking him down
the busy street that winds around between the sharp hills as though
it had crawled up, inch by inch, from the river-bottom below, Hesden
procured him some new clothes and a valise, which Berry persisted
in calling a "have'em-bag," and took him back to the hotel as his
servant. As Hesden started to his room, the rejuvenated fugitive
"Please, Marse Hesden, does yer know ennyt'ing what's a come ob--ob
my Sally an' de chillen. It's been a powerful time sence I seed
'em, Marse Hesden. I 'llow ter send fer 'em jest ez quick ez I
find whar dey is, an' gits de money, yer know."
"They are all right, Berry. You may come to my room in half an
hour, and we will tell you all about them," answered Hesden.
Hardly had he reached his room when he heard the footsteps of Berry
without. Going to the door he was met by Berry with the explanation,
"Beg parding, Marse Hesden. I knowed 'twa'n't de time fer me ter
come yit, but somehow I'llowed it would git on pearter ef I wuz
somewhar nigh you an' Miss Mollie. I'se half afeared I'se ies been
"Well, come in," said Hesden. Berry entered the room, and sat in
unwonted silence while Mollie and her husband told him what the
reader already knows about his family and friends. The poor fellow's
tears flowed freely, but he did not interrupt, save to ask now and
then a question. When they had concluded, he sat a while in silence,
and then said,
"Bress de Lo'd! Berry won't nebber hab no mo' doubt 'bout de Lo'd
takin' keer ob ebberybody--speshully niggas an' fools. H'yer I'se
been a-feelin' mighty hard kase de Ole Marster 'llowed Berry ter
be boxed roun', h'yer an' dar, fus' dis way an' now dat, an' let
him be run off from his wife an' chillen dat he t'ought der couldn't
nobody take keer on but hissef; an' h'yer all de time de good Lo'd
hez been a-lookin' atter 'em an' a-nussin' 'em like little lambs,
widout my knowin' ennyt'ing about it, er even axin' fer him ter do
it. Berry!" he continued, speaking to himself, "yer's jest a gran'
rascal, an' desarve ter be whacked roun' an' go hungry fer--"
"Berry," interrupted Mollie, "have you had your breakfast?"
"Brekfas', Miss Mollie?" said Berry, "what Berry want ob any brekfas'?
Ain't what yer's been a-tellin' on him brekfas' an' dinner an'
supper ter him? Brekfas' don't matter ter him now. He's jes dat
full o' good t'ings dat he won't need no mo' for a week at de berry
"Tell the truth, Berry; when did you eat last?"
"Wal, I 'clar, Miss Mollie, ef Berry don't make no mistake, he bed
a squar meal night afo' las', afo' we leave Saint Lewy. De yemergrant
train runs mighty slow, an' Berry wa'n't patronizin' none o' dem
cheap shops 'long de way--not much; yah, yah!"
Hesden soon arranged to relieve his discomfort, and that night he
told them where he had been and what had befallen him in the mean
"Yer see, atter I lef Bre'er Nimbus, I went back down inter Hanson
County; but I wuz jes dat bad skeered dat I darn't show myse'f
in de daytime at all. So I jes' tuk Sally an' de chillen in de
carry-all dat Nimbus lent me wid de mule, an' started on furder down
east. 'Clar, I jes hev ter pay Nimbus fer dat mule an' carry-all,
de berry fus' money I gits out h'yer in Kansas. It certain war a
gret help ter Berry. Jest as long ez I hed dat tertrabbel wid, I
knowed I war safe; kase nobody wouldn't nebber'spect I was runnin'
away in dat sort ob style. Wal, I went way down east, an' denex'
spring went ter crappin' on sheers on a cotting plantation. Sally
'n' me we jes made up ourminds dat we wouldn't draw no rations
from de boss man. ner ax him fer ary cent ob money de whole yeah,
an' den, yer know, dar wouldn't be nary 'count agin us when de year
wuz ober. So Sally, she 'llowed dat she'd wuk fer de bread an' meat
an' take keer ob de chillen, wid de few days' help I might spar'
outen de crap. De boss man, he war boun' by de writin's ter feed
de mule. Dat's de way we sot in.
"We got 'long mighty peart like till some time atter de crap wuz
laid by, 'long bout roastin'-ear-time. Den Sally tuk sick, an' de
fus' dat I knowed we wuz out o' meat. Sally wuz powerful sot agin
my goih' ter de boss man fer enny orders on destore, kase we knowed
how dat wukked afo'. Den I sez, 'See h'yer, Sally, I'se done got
it. Dar's dat piece ob corn dar, below de house, is jest a-gittin'
good fer roastin-yeahs, Now, we'll jes pick offen de outside rows,
an' I'll be dod-dinged ef we can't git 'long wid dat till de crap
comes off; an' I'll jes tell Maise Hooper--dat wuz de name o' de man
what owned de plantation--dat I'll take dem rows inter my sheer.'
So it went on fer a week er two, an' I t'ought I wuz jes gittin' on
like a quarter hoss. Sally wuz nigh 'bout well, an' 'llowed she'd
be ready ter go ter wuk de nex' week; when one mo'nin' I tuk the
basket an' went down ter pick some corn. Jest ez I'd got de basket
nigh 'bout full, who should start up dar, outen de bushes, on'y
jes Marse Hooper; an' he sez, mighty brisk-like, 'So? I 'llowed
I'd cotch yer 'fore I got fru! Stealin' corn, is yer?'
"Den I jes larfed right out, an' sez I, 'Dat's de fus' time I ebber
heerd ob ennybody a-stealin' corn out ob his own field! Yah! yah!'
Jes so-like. 'Ain't dis yer my crap, Marse Hooper? Didn't I make
it, jest a-payin' ter you one third on't for de rent?' T'ought I
hed him, yer know. But, law sakes, he didn't hev no sech notion,
not much. So he sez, sez he:
"'No yer don't! Dat mout a' done once, when de Radikils wuz in
power, but de legislatur las' winter dey made a diff'rent sort ob
a law, slightually. Dey sed dat ef a renter tuk away enny o' de
crap afo' it wuz all harvested an' diwided, widout de leave o' de
owner, got afo' hand, he was guilty o' stealin' '--larsininy, he
called it, but its all de same. An' he sed, sez he, 'Dar ain't no
use now, Berry Lawson. Yer's jes got yer choice. Yer kin jes git
up an' git, er else I hez yer 'dicted an' sent ter State prison
fer not less ner one year nor more'n twenty--dat's 'cordin' ter de
law.' "Den I begun ter be skeered-like, an' I sez, sez I, 'Arn't
yer gwine ter let me stay an' gether my crap?'
"'Damn de crap,' sez he (axin' yer parding, Miss Mollie, fer usin'
cuss-words), 'I'll take keer o' de crap; don't yer be afeared o'
dat. Yer t'ought yer was damn smart, didn't yer, not takin' enny
store orders, an' a-tryin' to fo'ce me ter pay yer cash in de lump?
But now I'se got yer. Dis Lan'lo'd an' Tenant Act war made fer jes
sech cussed smart niggers ez you is.'
"'Marse Hooper,' sez I, 'is dat de law?'
"'Sartin,' sez he, 'jes you come long wid me ober ter Squar Tice's,
an' ef he don't say so I'll quit--dat's all.'
"So we went ober ter Squar Tice's, an' he sed Marse Hooper war
right--dat it war stealin' all de same, even ef it war my own crap.
Den I seed dat Marse Hooper hed me close, an' I begun ter beg off,
kase I knowed it war a heap easier ter feed him soft corn dan ter
fight him in de law, when I wuz boun' ter git whipped. De Squar war
a good sort ob man, an' he kinder 'suaded Marse Hooper ter 'comp'
de matter wid me; an' dat's what we did finally. He gin me twenty
dollahs an' I signed away all my right ter de crap. Den he turned
in an' wanted ter hire me fer de nex yeah; but de Squar, he tuk
me out an' sed I'd better git away from dar, kase ennybody could
bring de matter up agin me an' git me put in de penitentiary fer
it, atter all dat hed been sed an' done. So we geared up, an' moved
on. Sally felt mighty bad, an' it did seem hard; but I tried ter
chirk her up, yer know, an' tole her dat, rough ez it war, it war
better nor we'd ebber done afo', kase we hed twenty dollahs an'
didn't owe nuffin'.
"I 'llowed we'd git clean away dat time, an' we didn't stop till
we'd got inter anodder State."
"Wal, dar I sot in ter wuk a cotting crap agin. Dis time I 'llowed
I'd jes take de odder way; an' so I tuk up all de orders on de
sto' dat de boss man would let me hev, kase I 'llowed ter git what
I could ez I went 'long, yer know. So, atter de cotting wuz all
picked, an' de 'counts all settled up, dar warn't only jest one
little bag ob lint a comin' ter Berry. I tuk dat inter de town one
Saturday in de ebenin', an' went roun' h'yer an' dar, a-tryin' ter
git de biggest price 'mong de buyers dat I could.
"It happened dat I done forgot al 'bout it's comin' on late, an'
jest a little atter sun-down, I struck on a man dat offered me
'bout a cent a poun' more'n ennybody else hed done, an' I traded
wid him. Den I druv de mule roun', an' hed jes got de cotting out
ob de carry-all an' inter de sto', when, fust I knowed, 'long come
a p'liceman an' tuk me up for selling cotting atter sun-down. I
tole him dat it was my own cotting, what I'd done raised myself,
but he sed ez how it didn't make no sort of diff'rence at all. He
'clared dat de law sed ez how ennybody ez sold er offered fer sale
any cotting atter sundown an' afore sun-up, should be sent ter jail
jes de same ez ef he'd done stole it. Den I axed de man dat bought
de cotting ter gib it back ter me, but he wouldn't do dat, nohow,
nor de money for it nuther. So dey jes' toted me off ter jail.
"I knowed der warn't no use in savin' nuffin' den. So when Sally
come in I tole her ter jes take dat ar mule an' carry-all an' sell
'em off jest ez quick ez she could, so dat nobody wouldn't git hold
ob dem. But when she tried ter do it, de boss man stopped her from
it, kase he hed a mortgage on 'em fer de contract; an' he sed ez
how I hedn't kep' my bargain kase I'd gone an' got put in jail afo'
de yeah was out. So she couldn't git no money ter pay a lawyer,
an' I don't s'pose 'twould hev done enny good ef she hed. I tole
her not ter mind no mo' 'bout me, but jes ter come back ter Red
Wing an' see ef Miss Mollie couldn't help her out enny, Yer see I
was jes shore dey'd put me in de chain-gang, an' I didn't want her
ner de chillen ter be whar dey'd see me a totin' 'roun' a ball an'
"Shore 'nough, when de court come on, dey tried me an' fotch me in
guilty o' sellin' cotting alter sundown. De jedge, he lectured me
powerful fer a while, an' den he ax me what I'd got ter say 'bout
it. Dat's de way I understood him ter say, ennyhow. So, ez he wuz
dat kind ez ter ax me ter speak in meetin', I 'llowed twa'n't no
mo' dan polite fer me ter say a few words, yer know. I told him
squar out dat I t'ought 'twas a mighty quare law an' a mighty mean
one, too, dat put a man in de chain-gang jes kase he sold his own
cotting atter sundown, when dey let ennybody buy it an' not pay
fer it at all. I tole him dat dey let 'em sell whisky an' terbacker
an' calico and sto' clo'es an' ebbery t'ing dat a nigger hed ter buy,
jest all times o' day an' night; an' I jest bleeved dat de whole
t'ing war jest a white man's trick ter git niggas in de chain-gang.
Den de jedge he tried ter set down on me an' tole me ter stop, but
I wuz dat mad dat when I got a-gwine dar warn't no stoppin' me till
de sheriff he jes grabbed me by de scruff o' de neck, an' sot me
down jest ennyway--all in a heap, yer know. Den de jedge passed
sentence, yer know, an' he sed dat he gib me one year fer de stealin'
an' one year fer sassin' de Court.
"So dey tuk me back ter jail, but, Lor' bress ye, dey didn't git
me inter de chain-gang, nohow. 'Fore de mo'nin' come I'd jes bid
good-by ter dat jail an' was a pintin' outen dat kentry, in my
weak way, ez de ministers say, jest ez fast ez I could git ober de
"Den I jes clean gib up. I couldn't take my back trac nowhar, fer
fear I'd be tuk up. I t'ought it all ober while I wuz a trabblin'
'long; an' I swar ter God, Marse Hesden, I jes did peg out ob all
hope. I couldn't go back ter Sallie an' de chillen, ner couldn't
do 'em enny good ef I did; ner I couldn't send fer dem ter come
ter me, kase I hedn't nuffin' ter fotch 'em wid. So I jes kinder
gin out, an' went a-sloshin' roun', not a-keerin' what I done er what
was ter come on me. I kep' a'sendin' letters ter Sally h'yer an'
dar, but, bress yer soul, I nebber heard nuffin' on 'em atterwards.
Den I t'ought I'd try an' git money ter go an' hunt 'em up, but it
was jes' ez it was afo'. I dunno how, but de harder I wuk de porer
I got, till finally I jes started off afoot an' alone ter go ter
Kansas; an' h'yer I is, ready ter grow up wid de kentry, Marse
Hesden, jest ez soon ez I gits ter Sally an' de chillen."
"I'm glad you have not had any political trouble," said Hesden.
"P'litical trouble?" said Berry. "Wal, Marse Hesden, yer knows dat
Berry is jes too good-natered ter do ennyt'ing but wuk an' larf,
an' do a little whistlin' an banjo-pickin' by way ob a change; but
I be dinged ef it don't 'pear ter me dat it's all p'litical trouble.
Who's Berry ebber hurt? What's he ebber done, I'd like ter know,
ter be debbled roun' dis yer way? I use ter vote, ob co'se. T'ought
I hed a right ter, an' dat it war my duty ter de kentry dat hed
gib me so much. But I don't do dat no mo'. Two year ago I quit dat
sort o' foolishness. What's de use? I see'd 'em count de votes,
Marse Hesden, an' den I knowed dar warn't no mo' use ob votin' gin
dat. Yer know, dey 'pints all de jedges ob de 'lection derselves,
an' so count de votes jest ez dey wants 'em. Dar in our precinct
war two right good white men, but dey 'pinted nary one o' dem
ter count de votes. Oh no, not ter speak on! Dey puts on de Board
a good-'nough old cullu'd man dat didn't know 'B' from a bull's
foot. Wal, our white men 'ranges de t'ing so dat dey counts our men
ez dey goes up ter de box an' dey gibs out de tickets dereselves.
Now, dar wuz six hundred an' odd ob our tickets went inter dat box.
Dat's shore. But dar wa'n't t'ree hundred come out. I pertended
ter be drunk, an' laid down by de chimbly whar dar was a peep-hole
inter dat room, an' seed dat countin' done. When dey fust opened
de box one on 'em sez, sez he,
"'Lord God! what a lot o' votes!' Den dey all look an' 'llowed dar
war a heap mo' votes than dey'd got names. So they all turned in
ter count de votes. Dar wuz two kinds on 'em. One wuz little bits
ob slick, shiny fellers, and de odders jes common big ones. When
dey'd got 'em all counted they done some figurin,' an' sed dey'd
hev ter draw out 'bout t'ree hundred an' fifty votes. So dey put
'em all back in de box, all folded up jest ez dey wuz at de start,
an' den dey shuck it an' shuck it an' shuck it, till it seemed ter
me 'em little fellers wuz boun' ter slip fru de bottom. Den one
on 'em wuz blindfolded, an' he drew outen de box till he got out
de right number--mostly all on 'em de big tickets, mind ye, kase
dey wuz on top, yer know. Den dey count de rest an' make up de
papers, an' burns all de tickets.
"Now what's de use o' votin' agin dat? I can't see what fer dey
put de tickets in de box at all. 'Tain't half ez fa'r ez a lottery
I seed one time in Melton; kase dar dey kep turnin' ober de wheel,
an' all de tickets hed a fa'r show. No, Marse Hesden, I nebber
does no mo' votin' till I t'inks dar's a leetle chance o' habbin'
my vote counted jest ez I drops it inter de box, 'long wid de rest.
I don't see no use in it."
"You are quite right, Berry," said Hesden; "but what do _you_
say is the reason you have come away from the South?"
"Jest kase a poor man dat hain't got no larnin' is wuss off dar
dan a cat in hell widout claws; he can't fight ner he can't climb.
I'se wukked hard an' been honest ebber sence de S'render an' I hed
ter walk an' beg my rations ter git h'yer. [Footnote: The actual
words used by a colored man well-known to the writer in giving his
reason for joining the "exodus," in a conversation in the depot
at Kansas City, in February last.] Dat's de reason!" said Berry,
springing to his feet and speaking excitedly.
"Yes, Berry, you have been unfortunate, but I know all are not so
"T'ank God fer dat!" said Berry. "Yer see I'd a' got' long well
'nough ef I'd hed a fa'r shake an' hed knowd' all 'bout de law,
er ef de law hadn't been made ter cotch jes sech ez me. I didn't
ebber 'spect nuffin' but jest a tollable libbin', only a bit ob
larnin, fer my chillen. I tried mighty hard, an' dis is jes what's
come on't. I don't pertend ter say what's de matter, but sunthin'
is wrong, or else sunthin' hez been wrong, an' dis that we hez
now is jest de fruits on't--I dunno which. I can't understand it,
nohow. I don't hate nobody, an' I don't know ez dar's enny way
out, but only jes ter wait an' wait ez we did in slave times fer
de good time ter come. I wuz jes dat tuckered out a-tryin,' dat I
t'ought I'd come out h'yer an' wait an' see ef I couldn't grow up
wid de kentry, yer know. Yah, yah!"
The next morning the light-hearted exodian departed, with a ticket
for Eupolia and a note to his white fellow-fugitive from the evils
which a dark past has bequeathed to the South--Jordan Jackson, now
the agent of Hesden and Mollie in the management of their interests
at that place. Hesden and Mollie continued their homeward journey,
stopping for a few days in Washington on their way.
WHAT SHALL THE END BE?
Two men sat upon one of the benches in the shade of a spreading elm
in the shadow of the National Capitol, as the sun declined toward
his setting. They had been walking and talking as only earnest,
thoughtful men are wont to talk. They had forgotten each other and
themselves in the endeavor to forecast the future of the country
after a consideration of its past.
One was tall, broad, and of full habit, with a clear blue eye,
high, noble forehead, and brown beard and hair just beginning
to be flecked with gray, and of a light complexion inclining to
floridness. He was a magnificent type of the Northern man. He had
been the shaper of his own destiny, and had risen to high position,
with the aid only of that self-reliant manhood which constitutes
the life and glory of the great free North. He was the child of
the North-west, but his ancestral roots struck deep into the rugged
hills of New England. The West had made him broader and fuller and
freer than the stock from which he sprang, without impairing his
earnestness of purpose or intensity of conviction.
The other, more slender, dark, with something of sallowness in his
sedate features, with hair and beard of dark brown clinging close
to the finely-chiseled head and face, with an empty sleeve pinned
across his breast, showed more of litheness and subtlety, and
scarcely less of strength, than the one on whom he gazed, and was
an equally perfect type of the Southern-born American. The one was
the Honorable Washington Goodspeed, M.C., and the other was Hesden
"Well, Mr. Le Moyne," said the former, after a long and thoughtful
pause, "is there any remedy for these things? Can the South and the
North ever be made one people in thought, spirit, and purpose? It
is evident that they have not been in the past; can they become
so in the future? Wisdom and patriotism have thus far developed no
cure for this evil; they seem, indeed, to have proved inadequate
to the elucidation of the problem. Have you any solution to offer?"
"I think," replied Le Moyne, speaking slowly and thoughtfully, "that
there is a solution lying just at our hand, the very simplicity of
which, perhaps, has hitherto prevented us from fully appreciating
"Ah!" said Goodspeed, with some eagerness, "and what may that be?"
"Education!" was the reply.
"Oh, yes," said the other, with a smile. "You have adopted, then,
the Fourth of July remedy for all national ills?"
"If you mean by 'Fourth of July remedy,'" replied Hesdeu with some
tartness, "that it is an idea born of patriotic feeling alone, I
can most sincerely answer, Yes. You will please to recollect that
every bias of my mind and life has been toward the Southern view
of all things. I doubt if any man of the North can appreciate the
full force and effect of that bias upon the minds and hearts of
those exposed to its operation. When the war ended I had no reason
or motive for considering the question of rebuilding the national
prosperity and power upon a firmer and broader basis than before.
That was left entirely to you gentlemen of the North. It was not
until you, the representatives of the national power, had acted--ay,
it was not until your action had resulted in apparent failure--that
I began to consider this question at all. I did so without any
selfish bias or hope, beyond that which every man ought to have in
behalf of the Nation which he is a part, and in which he expects
his children to remain. So that I think I may safely say that my
idea of the remedy does spring from a patriotism as deep and earnest
as ever finds expression upon the national holiday."
"Oh, I did not mean that," was the half-apologetic rejoinder; "I
did not mean to question your sincerity at all; but the truth is,
there has been so much impracticable theorizing upon this subject
that one who looks for results can scarcely restrain an expression
of impatience when that answer is dogmatically given to such an
"Without entirely indorsing your view as to the impracticality
of what has been said and written upon this subject," answered Le
Moyne, "I must confess that I have never yet seen it formulated
in a manner entirely satisfactory to myself. For my part, I am
thoroughly satisfied that it is not only practicable, but is also
the sole practicable method of curing the ills of which we have
been speaking. It seems to me also perfectly apparent why the remedy
has not previously been applied--why the patriotism and wisdom of
the past has failed to hit upon this simple remedy."
"Well, why was it?"
"The difference between the North and the South before the war,"
said Le Moyne, "was twofold; both the political and the social
organizations of the South were utterly different from those of the
North, and could not be harmonized with them. The characteristics
of the _social_ organization you, in common with the intelligent
masses of the North, no doubt comprehend as fully and clearly as is
possible for one who has not personally investigated its phenomena.
Your Northern social system was builded upon the idea of inherent
equality--that is, of equality and opportunity; so that the only
inequality which could exist was that which resulted from the
accident of wealth or difference of capacity in the individual.
"The social system of the South was opposed to this in its very
elements. At the very outset it was based upon a wide distinction,
never overlooked or forgotten for a single moment. Under no
circumstances could a colored man, of whatever rank or grade of
intellectual power, in any respect, for a single instant overstep
the gulf which separated him from the Caucasian, however humble,
impoverished, or degraded the latter might be. This rendered easy
and natural the establishment of other social grades and ideas,
which tended to separate still farther the Northern from the Southern
social system. The very fact of the African being thus degraded
led, by natural association, to the degradation of those forms of
labor most frequently delegated to the slave. By this means free
labor became gradually to be considered more and more disreputable,
and self-support to be considered less and less honorable. The
necessities of slavery, as well as the constantly growing pride of
class, tended very rapidly toward the subversion of free thought
and free speech; so that, even with the white man of any and every
class, the right to hold and express opinions different from those
entertained by the bulk of the master-class with reference to all
those subjects related to the social system of the South soon came
to be questioned, and eventually utterly denied. All these facts the
North--that is, the Northern people, Northern statesmen, Northern
thinkers--have comprehended _as_ facts. Their influence and
bearings, I may be allowed to say, they have little understood,
because they have not sufficiently realized their influence upon
the minds of those subjected, generation after generation, to their
"On the other hand, the wide difference between the _political_
systems of the North and the South seems never to have affected the
Northern mind at all. The Northern statesmen and political writers
seem always to have proceeded upon the assumption that the removal
of slavery, the changing of the legal status of the African,
resulting in the withdrawal of one of the props which supported
the _social_ system of the South, would of itself overthrow
not only that system, but the political system which had grown up
along with it, and which was skillfully designed for its maintenance
and support. Of the absolute difference between the political
systems of the South and the North, and of the fact that the social
and political systems stood to each other in the mutual relation
of cause and effect, the North seems ever to have been profoundly
"Well," said Mr. Goodspeed, "I must confess that I cannot understand
what difference there is, except what arose out of slavery."
"The questien is not," said Le Moyne, "whether it _arose_
out of slavery, but whether it would of necessity fall with the
extinction of slavery _as a legal status_. It is, perhaps,
impossible for any one to say exactly how much of the political
system of the South grew out of slavery, and how much of slavery
and its consequences were due to the Southern political system."
"I do not catch your meaning," said Goodspeed. "Except for the
system of slavery and the exclusion of the blacks from the exercise
and enjoyment of poitical rights and privileges, I cannot see that
the political system of the South differed materially from that of
"Precisely so," said Le Moyne. "Your inability to perceive my meaning
very clearly illustrates to my mind the fact which I am endeavoring
to impress upon you. If you will consider for a moment the history
of the country, you will observe that a system prevailed in the
nou-slaveholding States which was unknown, either in name or essential
attributes, throughout the slaveholding part of the country."
"Yes?" said the other inquiringly. "What may that have been?"
"In one word," said Le Moyne--"the 'township' system."
"Oh, yes," laughed the Congressman lightly; "the Yankee town-meeting."
"Exactly," responded Le Moyne; "yet I venture to say that the
presence and absence of the town-meeting--the township system or its
equivalent--in the North and in the South, constituted a difference
not less vital and important than that of slavery itself. In fact,
sir, I sincerely believe that it is to the township system that the
North owes the fact that it is not to-day as much slave territory
as the South was before the war."
"What!" said the Northerner, with surprise, "you do not mean
to say that the North owes its freedom, its prosperity, and its
intelligence--the three things in which it differs from the South
most materially--entirely to the Yankee town-meeting?"
"Perhaps not entirely," said Le Moyne; "but in the main I think
it does. And there are certain facts connected with our history
which I think, when you consider them carefully, will incline you
to the same belief."
"Indeed; I should be glad to know them."
"The first of these," continued Le Moyne, "is the fact that in
every state in which the township system really prevailed, slavery
was abolished without recourse to arms, without civil discord or
perceptible evil results. The next is that in the states in which
the township system did not prevail in fact as well as name, the
public school system did not exist, or had only a nominal existence;
and the proportion of illiteracy in those states as a consequence
was, _among the whites alone_, something like four times as
great as in those states in which the township system flourished.
And this, too, notwithstanding almost the entire bulk of the ignorant
immigration from the old world entered into the composition of
the Northern populations. And, thirdly, there resulted a difference
which I admit to be composite in its causes--that is, the difference
in average wealth. Leaving out of consideration the capital invested
in slaves, the _per capita_ valuation of the states having the
township system was something more than three times the average in
those where it was unknown."
"But what reason can you give for this belief?" said Goodspeed.
"How do you connect with the consequences, which cannot be doubted,
the cause you assign? The differences between the South and the
North have hitherto been attributed entirely to slavery; why do
you say that they are in so great a measure due to differences of
"I can very well see," was the reply, "that one reared as you were
should fail to understand at once the potency of the system which
has always been to you as much a matter of course as the atmosphere
by which you are surrounded. It was not until Harvey's time--indeed,
it was not until a much later period--that we knew in what way and
manner animal life was maintained by the inhalation of atmospheric
air. The fact of its necessity was apparent to every child, but how
it operated was unknown. I do not now profess to be able to give
all of those particulars which have made the township system, or
its equivalent, an essential concomitant of political equality,
and, as I think, the vital element of American liberty. But I can
illustrate it so that you will get the drift of my thought."
"I should be glad if you would," said Goodspeed.
"The township system," continued Le Moyne, "may, for the present
purpose, be denned to be the division of the entire territory of
the state into small municipalises, the inhabitants of which control
and manage for themselves, directly and immediately, their own
local affairs. Each township is in itself a miniature republic,
every citizen of which exercises in its affairs equal power with
every other citizen. Each of these miniature republics becomes a
constituent element of the higher representative republic--namely,
a county, which is itself a component of the still larger representative
republic, the State. It is patterned upon and no doubt grew out of
the less perfect borough systems of Europe, and those inchoate communes
of our Saxon forefathers which were denominated '_Hundreds_.'
It is the slow growth of centuries of political experience; the
ripe fruit of ages of liberty-seeking thought.
"The township is the shield and nursery of individual freedom of
thought and action. The young citizen who has never dreamed of a
political career becomes interested in some local question affecting
his individual interests. A bridge is out of repair; a roadmaster
has failed to perform his duty; a constable has been remiss in his
office; a justice of the peace has failed to hold the scales with
even balance between rich and poor; a school has not been properly
cared for; the funds of the township have been squandered; or the
assumption of a liability is proposed by the township trustees, the
policy of which he doubts. He has the remedy in his own hands. He
goes to the township meeting, or he appears at the town-house upon
election day, and appeals to his own neighbors--those having like
interests with himself. He engages in the struggle, hand to hand
and foot to foot with his equals; he learns confidence in himself;
he begins to measure his own power, and fits himself for the higher
duties and responsibilities of statesmanship."
"Well, well," laughed Goodspeed, "there is something in that. I
remember that iny first political experience was in trying to defeat
a supervisor who did not properly work the roads of his district;
but I had never thought that in so doing I was illustrating such
a doctrine as you have put forth."
"No; the doctrine is not mine," said Le Moyne. "Others, and
especially that noted French political philosopher who so calmly
and faithfully investigated our political system--the author of
'Democracy in America'--clearly pointed out, many years ago, the
exceptional value of this institution, and attributed to it the
superior intelligence and prosperity of the North."
"Then," was the good-natured reply, "your prescription for the
political regeneration of the South is the same as that which we
all laughed at as coming from Horace Greeley immediately upon the
downfall of the Confederacy--that the Government should send an
army of surveyors to the South to lay off the land in sections and
quarter-sections, establish parallel roads, and enforce topographic
uniformity upon the nation?
"Not at all," said Le Moyne. "I think that the use of the
term 'township' in a _double_ sense has misled our political
thinkers in estimating its value. It is by no means necessary that
the township of the United States survey should be arbitrarily
established in every state. In fact, the township system really
finds its fullest development where such a land division does not
prevail, as in New England, Pennsylvania, and other states. It is
the _people_ that require to be laid off in townships, not
the land. Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, all have their lands laid
off in the parallelograms prescribed by the laws regulating United
States surveys; but their _people_ are not organized into
"But was there no equivalent system of local self-government in
"No; and there is not to-day. In some cases there are lame
approaches to it; but in none of the former slave States were the
counties made up of self-governing subdivisions. The South is to-day
and always has been a stranger to local self-government. In many of
those states every justice of the peace, every school committeeman,
every inspector of elections is appointed by some central power in
the county, which is in turn itself appointed either by the Chief
Executive of the State or by the dominant party in the Legislature.
There may be the form of townships, but the differential characteristic
is lacking--the self-governing element of the township."
"I don't know that I fully comprehend you," said Goodspeed. "Please
"Well, take one state for an example, where the constitution
adopted during the reconstruction period introduced the township
system, and authorized the electors of each township to choose
their justices of the peace, constables, school-cominitteemen, and
other local officials. It permitted the people of the county to
choose a board of commissioners, who should administer the financial
matters of the county, and, in some instances, exeicise a limited
judicial authority. But now they have, in effect, returned to the
old system. The dominant party in the Legislature appoints every
justice of the peace in the state. The justices of the peace of
each county elect from their number the county commissioners; the
county commissioners appoint the school-committeemen, the roadmasters,
the registrars of election and the judges of election; so that
every local interest throughout the entire state is placed under
the immediate power and control of the dominant party, although
not a tenth part of the voters of any particular township or county
may belong to that party. In another state all this power, and even
more, is exercised by the Chief Executive; and in all of them you
will find that the county--or its equivalent, the parish--is the
smallest political unit having a municipal character."
There was a moment of silence, after which the Northern man said
"I think I understand your views, Mr. Le Moyne, and must admit that
both the facts and the deductions which you make from them are very
interesting, full of food for earnest reflection, and, for aught I
know, may fully bear out your view of their effects. Still, I cannot
see that your remedy for this state of affairs differs materially
in its practicability from that of the departed philosopher
of Chappaqua. He prescribed a division of the lands, while, if I
understand you, you would have the Government in some way prescribe
and control the municipal organisations of the people of the
various states. I cannot see what power the National Government
has, or any branch of it, which could effectuate that result."
"It can only be done as it was done at the North," said Le Moyne
"Well, I declare!" said Goodspeed, with an outburst of laughter,
"your riddle grows worse and worse--more and more insoluble to
my mind. How, pray, was it done at the North? I always thought we
got it from colonial times. I am sure the New England town-meeting
came over in the Mayflower."
"So it did!" responded Hesden, springing to his feet; "so it did;
it came over in the hearts of men who demanded, and were willing to
give up everything else to secure the right of local self-government.
The little colony upon the Mayflower was a township, and every man
of its passengers carried the seed of the ideal township system
in his heart."
"Admitted, admitted, Mr. Le Moyne," said the other, smiling at his
earnestness. "But how shall we repeat the experiment? Would you
import men into every township of the South, in order that they
might carry the seeds of civil liberty with them, and build up the
township system there?"
"By no means. I would make the men on the spot. I would so mold
the minds of every class of the Southern people that all should be
indoctrinated with the spirit of local self-government."
"But how would you do it?"
"With spelling-books!" answered Hesden sententiously.
"There we are," laughed the other, "at the very point we started
from. Like the poet of the Western bar-room, you may well say, my
friend, 'And so I end as I did begin.'"
"Yes," said Le Moyne, "we have considered the _desirability_
of education, and you have continually cried, with good-natured
incredulity, 'How shall it be done?' Are you not making that inquiry
"Not at all," said the Congressman earnestly; "I see how desirable
is the result, and I am willing to do anything in my power to
attain it, if there is any means by which it can be accomplished."
"That is it," said Le Moyne; "you are _willing_; you recognize
that it would be a good thing; you wish it might be done; you have
no desire to stand in the way of its accomplishment. That is not
the spirit which achieves results. Nothing is accomplished by mere
assent. The American people must first be thoroughly satisfied
that it is a necessity. The French may shout over a red cap, and
overturn existing systems for a vague idea; but American conservatism
consists in doing nothing until it is absolutely necessary. We
never move until the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour.
"Only think of it! You fought a rebellion, based professedly upon
slavery as a corner-stone, for almost two years before you could
bring yourselves to disturb that corner-stone. You knew the structure
would fall if that were done; but the American people waited and
waited until every man was fully satisfied that there was no other
possible road to success. It is just so in this matter. I feel its
necessity. You do not.'
"There I think you do me injustice," said Goodspeed, "I feel the
necessity of educating every citizen of the Republic, as well as
"No doubt, in a certain vague way," was the reply; "but you do not
feel it as the only safety to the Republic to-day; and I do."
"I confess I do not see, as you seem to, the immediate advantage,
or the immediate danger, more than that which has always threatened
us," answered the Congressman.
"This, after all, is the real danger, I think," said Le Moyne.
"The states containing only one third of the population of this
Union contain also more than two thirds of its entire illiteracy.
Twenty-five out of every hundred--one out of every four--of the
_white voters_ of the former slave states cannot read the
ballots which they cast; forty-five per cent of the entire voting
strength of those sixteen states are unable to read or write."
"Well?" said the other calmly, seeing Le Moyne look at him as though
expecting him to show surprise.
"_Well!_" said Le Moyne. "I declare your Northern phlegm is
past my comprehension.--'Well,' indeed! it seems to me as bad as
bad can be. Only think of it--only six per cent of intelligence
united with this illiterate vote makes a majority!"
"Well?" was the response again, still inquiringly.
"And that majority," continued Le Moyne, "would choose seventy-two
per cent of the electoral votes necessary to name a President of
the United States!"
"Well," said the other, with grim humor, "they are not very likely
to do it at present, anyhow."
"That is true," replied Le Moyne. "But there is still the other
danger, and the greater evil. That same forty-five per cent are of
course easily made the subjects of fraud or violence, and we face
this dilemma: they may either use their power wrongfully, or be
wrongfully deprived of the exercise of their ballotorial rights.
Either alternative is alike dangerous. If we suppose the illiterate
voter to be either misled or intimidated, or prevented from exercising
his judgment and his equality of right with others in the control
of our government, then we have the voice of this forty-five per
cent silenced--whether by intimidation or by fraud matters not.
Then a majority of the remaining fifty-four per cent, or, say,
twenty-eight per cent of one third of the population of the Nation
in a little more than one third of the States, might exercise
seventy-two per cent of the electoral power necessary to choose a
President, and a like proportion of the legislative power necessary
to enact laws. Will the time ever come, my friend, when it will
be safe to put in the way of any party such a temptation as is
presented by this opportunity to acquire power?"
"No, no, no," said the Northern man, with impatience. "But what
can you do? Education will not make men honest, or patriotic, or
"True enough," was the reply. "Nor will the knowledge of toxicology
prevent the physician from being a poisoner, or skill in handwriting
keep a man from becoming a forger. But the study of toxicology will
enable the physician to save life, and the study of handwriting is
a valuable means of preventing the results of wrongful acts. So,
while education does not make the voter honest, it enables him to
protect himself against the frauds of others, and not only increases
his power but inspires him to resist violence. So that, in the
aggregate, you Northerners are right in the boast which you make
that intelligence makes a people stronger and braver and freer."
"So your remedy is--" began the other.
"Not _my_ remedy, but the _only_ remedy, is to educate
the people until they shall be wise enough to know what they ought
to do, and brave enough and strong enough to do it."
"Oh, that is all well enough, if it could be done," said Goodspeed.
"Therefore it is," returned Hesden, "that it _must_ be done."
"But _how?_" said the other querulously. "You know that the
Constitution gives the control of such matters entirely to the
States. The Nation cannot interfere with it. It is the duty of the
States to educate their citizens--a clear and imperative duty;
but if they will not do it the Nation cannot compel them."
"Yes," said Hesden, "I know. For almost a century you said that
about slavery; and you have been trying to hunt a way of escape
from your enforced denial of it ever since. But as a matter of
fact, when you came to the last ditch and found no bridge across,
you simply made one. When it became an unavoidable question whether
the Union or slavery should live, you chose the Union. The choice
may come between the Union and ignorance; and if it does, I have
no fear as to which the people will choose. The doctrine of State
Rights is a beautiful thing to expatiate upon, but it has been the
root of nearly all the evil the country has suffered. However,
I believe that this remedy can at once be applied without serious
inconvenience from that source."
"How?" asked the other; "that is what I want to know."
"Understand me," said Le Moyne; "I do not consider the means
so important as the end. When the necessity is fully realized the
means will be discovered; but I believe that we hold the clue even
now in our hands."
"Well, what is it?" was the impatient inquiry.
"A fund of about a million dollars," said Le Moyne, "has already
been distributed to free public schools in the South, upon a system
which does not seriously interfere with the jealously-guarded
rights of those states."
"You mean the Peabody Fund?"
"Yes; I do refer to that act of unparalleled beneficence and
"But that was not the act of the Nation."
"Very true; but why should not the Nation distribute a like bounty
upon the same system? It is admitted, beyond serious controversy,
that the Nation may raise and appropriate funds for such purposes
among the different states, provided it be not for the exclusive
benefit of any in particular. It is perhaps past controversy that
the Government might distribute a fund to the different states
_in the proportion of illiteracy_. This, it is true, would
give greater amounts to certain states than to others, but only
greater in proportion to the evil to be remedied."
"Yes," said the other; "but the experience of the Nation in
distributing lands and funds for educational purposes has not been
encouraging. The results have hardly been commensurate with the
"That is true," said Hesden, "and this is why I instance the
Peabody Fund. That is not given into the hands of the officers of
the various states, but when a school is organized and fulfills
the requirements laid down for the distribution of that fund, in
regard to numbers and average attendance--in other words, is shown
to be an efficient institution of learning--then the managers of
the fund give to it a sum sufficient to defray a certain proportion
of its expenses."
"And you think such a system might be applied to a Government
"Certainly. The amount to which the county, township, or school
district would be entitled might be easily ascertained, and
upon the organization and maintenance of a school complying with
the reasonable requirements of a well-drawn statute in regard to
attendance and instruction, such amount might be paid over."
"Yes," was the reply, after a thoughtful pause; "but would not that
necessitate a National supervision of State schools?"
"To a certain extent, yes. Yet there would be nothing compulsory
about it. It would only be such inspection as would be necessary
to determine whether the applicant had entitled himself to share
the Nation's bounty. Surely the Nation may condition its own
"But suppose these states should refuse to submit to such inspection,
or accept such appropriation?"
"That is the point, exactly, to which I desire to bring your
attention," said Le Moyne. "Ignorance, unless biased by religious
bigotry, always clamors for knowledge. You could well count upon
the forty-five per cent of ignorant voters insisting upon the
reception of that bounty. The number of those that recognize the
necessity of instructing the ignorant voter, even in those states,
is hourly increasing, and but a brief time would elapse until
no party would dare to risk opposition to such a course. I doubt
whether any party would venture upon it, even now."
"But are not its results too remote, Mr. Le Moyne, to make such a
measure of present interest in the cure of present evils?"
"Not at all," answered Hesden. "By such a measure you bring the
purest men of the South into close and intimate relations with
the Government. You cut off the sap which nourishes the yet living
root of the State Rights dogma. You bring every man to feel as you
feel, that there is something greater and grander than his State
and section. Besides that, you draw the poison from the sting which
rankles deeper than you think. The Southern white man feels, and
justly feels, that the burden of educating the colored man ought
not to be laid upon the South alone. He says truly, 'The Nation
fostered and encouraged slavery; it gave it greater protection and
threw greater safeguards around it than any other kind of property;
it encouraged my ancestors and myself to invest the proceeds of
generations of care and skill and growth in slaves. When the war
ended it not only at one stroke dissipated all these accumulations,
but it also gave to these men the ballot, and would now drive me,
for my own protection, to provide for their education. This is
unjust and oppressive. I will not do it, nor consent that it shall
be done by my people or by our section alone.' To such a man--and
there are many thousands of them--such a measure would come as an
act of justice. It would be a grateful balm to his outraged feelings,
and would incline him to forget, much more readily than he otherwise
would, what he regards to be the injustice of emancipation. It will
lead him to consider whether he has not been wrong in supposing
that the emancipation and enfranchisement of the blacks proceeded
from a feeling of resentment, and was intended as a punishment
merely. It will incline him to consider whether the people of the
North, the controlling power of the Government at that time, did
not act from a better motive than he has given them credit for.
But even if this plan should meet with disapproval, instead of
approval, from the white voters of the South, it would still be
the true and wise policy for the Nation to pursue."
"So you really think," said the Northerner dubiously, "that such
a measure would produce good results even in the present generation?"
"Unquestionably," was the reply. "Perhaps the chief incentive to
the acts which have disgraced our civilization--which have made
the white people of the South almost a unit in opposing by every
means, lawful and unlawful, the course of the Government in
reconstruction, has been a deep and bitter conviction that hatred,
envy, and resentment against them on the part of the North, were
the motives which prompted those acts. Such a measure, planned upon
a liberal scale, would be a vindication of the manhood of the North;
an assertion of its sense of right as well as its determination to
develop at the South the same intelligence, the same freedom of
thought and action, the same equality of individual right, that
have made the North prosperous and free and strong, while the lack
of them has made the South poor and ignorant and weak."
"Well, well," said the Congressman seriously, "you may be right.
I had never thought of it _quite_ in that light before. It is
worth thinking about, my friend; it is worth thinking about."
"That it is!" said Le Moyne, joyfully extending his hand. "Think!
If you will only _think_--if the free people of the North will
only think of this matter, I have no fears but a solution will be
found. Mine may not be the right one. That is no matter. As I said,
the question of method is entirely subordinate to the result. But
let the people think, and they will think rightly. Don't think of
it as a politician in the little sense of that word, but in the great
one. Don't try to compel the Nation to accept your view or mine;
but spur the national thought by every possible means to consider
the evil, to demand its cure, and to devise a remedy."
So, day by day, the "irrepressible conflict" is renewed. The Past
bequeaths to the Present its wondrous legacy of good and ill. Names
are changed, but truths remain. The soil which slavery claimed,
baptized with blood becomes the Promised Land of the freedman and
poor white. The late master wonders at the mockery of Fate. Ignorance
marvels at the power of Knowledge. Love overleaps the barriers of
prejudice, and Faith laughs at the Impossible.
"The world goes up and the world goes down,
The sunshine follows the rain;
And yesterday's sneer and yesterday's frown
Can never come over again."
On the trestle-board of the Present, Liberty forever sets before
the Future some new query. The Wise-man sweats drops of blood.
The Greatheart abides in his strength. The King makes commandment.
The Fool laughs.
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