Froudacity: West Indian Fables by J. A. Froude
J. J. Thomas

Part 3 out of 3

professors. Under this aspect we behold it moulding men, of all
nations, countries, and tongues, whose virtues have challenged and
should command on its behalf the unquestioning faith and adhesion of
every rational observer. "Evidences of Christianity,"
"Controversies," "Exegetical Commentaries," have all proved [222]
more or less futile--as perhaps they ought--with the Science and
Modern Criticism which perverts religion into a matter of dialectics.
But there is a hope for mankind in the fact that Science itself shall
have ultimately to admit the limitations of human inquiry into the
details of the Infinite. Meanwhile it requires no technical
proficiency to recognize the criminality of those who waste their
brief threescore and ten years in abstract speculations, while the
tangible, visible, and hideous soul-destroying trinity of Vice,
Ignorance, and Poverty, above mentioned, are desolating the world in
their very sight. There are possessors of personal virtue,
enlightenment, and wealth, who dare stand neutral with regard to
these dire exigencies among their fellows. And yet they are the
logical helpers, as holders of the special antidote to each of those
banes! Infinitely more deserving of execration are such folk than
the callous owner of some specific, who allows a suffering neighbour
to perish for want of it.

We who believe in the ultimate development of the Christian notion of
duty towards God, as manifested in untiring beneficence to man, cling
to this faith--starting from the [223] beginning of the New Testament
dispensation--because Saul of Tarsus, transformed into Paul the
Apostle through his whole-souled acceptance of this very creed with
its practical responsibilities, has, in his ardent, indefatigable
labours for the enlightenment and elevation of his fellows, left us a
lesson which is an enduring inspiration; because Augustine, Bishop of
Hippo, benefited, in a manner which has borne, and ever will bear,
priceless fruit, enormous sections of the human family, after his
definite submission to the benign yoke of the same old creed; because
Vincent de Paul has, through the identical inspiration, endowed the
world with his everlasting legacy of organized beneficence; because
it impelled Francis Xavier with yearning heart and eager footsteps
through thousands of miles of peril, to proclaim to the darkling
millions of India what he had experienced to be tidings of great joy
to himself; because Matthew Hale, a lawyer, and of first prominence
in a pursuit which materializes the mind and nips its native candour
and tenderness, escaped unblighted, through the saving influence of
his faith, approving himself in the sight of all [224] an ideal
judge, even according to the highest conception; because John Howard,
opulent and free to enjoy his opulence and repose, was drawn thereby
throughout the whole continent of Europe in quest of the hidden
miseries that torture those whom the law has shut out, in dungeons,
from the light and sympathy of the world; because Thomas Clarkson,
animated by the spirit of its teachings, consecrated wealth, luxury,
and the quiet of an entire lifetime on the altar of voluntary
sacrifice for the salvation of an alien people; because Samuel
Johnson, shut out from mirthfulness by disease and suffering, and
endowed with an intellectual pride intolerant of froward ignorance,
was, through the chastening power of that belief, transformed into
the cheerful minister and willing slave of the weaklings whom he
gathered into his home, and around whom the tendrils of his heart had
entwined themselves, waxing closer and stronger in the moisture of
his never-failing charity; because Henry Havelock, a man of the
sword, whose duties have never been too propitious to the cultivation
and fostering of the gentler virtues, lived and died a blameless
hero, constrained by that faith to be one of its most illustrious
exemplars; [225] because David Livingstone looms great and reverend
in our mental sight in his devotion to a land and race embraced in
his boundless fellow-feeling, and whose miseries he has commended to
the sympathy of the civilized world in words the pathos whereof has
melted thousands of once obdurate hearts to crave a share in applying
a balm to the "open sore of Africa"--that slave-trade whose
numberless horrors beggar description; and finally--one more example
out of the countless varieties of types that blend into a unique
solidarity in the active manifestation of the Christian life--we
believe because Charles Gordon, the martyr-soldier of Khartoum, in
trusting faith a very child, but in heroism more notable than any
mere man of whom history contains a record, gathered around himself,
through the sublime attractiveness of his faith-directed life, the
united suffrages of all nations, and now enjoys, as the recompense
and seal of his life's labours, an apotheosis in homage to which the
heathen of Africa, the man-hunting Arab, the Egyptian, the Turk, all
jostle each other to blend with the exulting children of Britain who
are directly glorified by his life and history.

[226] Here, then, are speaking evidences of the believers' grounds.
Verily they are of the kind that are to be seen in our midst,
touched, heard, listened to, respected, beloved--nay, honoured, too,
with the glad worship our inward spirit springs forth to render to
goodness so largely plenished from the Source of all Good. Can
Modern Science and Criticism explain them away, or persuade us of
their insufficiency as incentives to the hearty acceptance of the
religion that has received such glorious, yet simply logical,
incarnation in the persons of weak, erring men who welcomed its
responsibilities conjointly with its teachings, and thereby raised
themselves to the spiritual level pictured to ourselves in our
conception of angels who have been given the Divine charge concerning
mankind. Religion for Negroes, indeed! White priests, forsooth!
This sort of arrogance might, possibly, avail in quarters where the
person and pretensions of Mr. Froude could be impressive and
influential--but here, in the momentous concern of man with Him who
"is no respecter of persons," his interference, mentally disposed as
he tells us he is with reference to such a matter, is nothing less
than profane intrusion.

[227] We will conclude by stating in a few words our notion of the
only agency by which, not Blacks alone, but every race of mankind,
might be uplifted to the moral level which the thousands of examples,
of which we have glanced at but a few, prove so indubitably the
capacity of man to attain--each to a degree limited by the scope of
his individual powers. The priesthood whereof the world stands in
such dire need is not at all the confederacy of augurs which Mr.
Froude, perhaps in recollection of his former profession, so glibly
suggests, with an esoteric creed of their own, "crystallized into
shape" for profession before the public. The day of priestcraft
being now numbered with the things that were, the exploitation of
those outside of the sacerdotal circle is no longer possible.
Therefore the religion of mere talk, however metaphysical and
profound; the religion of scenic display, except such display be
symbolic of living and active verities, has lost whatever of efficacy
it may once have possessed, through the very spirit and tendency of
To-day. The reason why those few whom we have mentioned, and the
thousands who cannot possibly be recalled, have, as [228] typical
Christians, impressed themselves on the moral sense and sympathy of
the ages, is simply that they lived the faith which they professed.
Whatever words they may have employed to express their serious
thoughts were never otherwise than, incidentally, a spoken fragment
of their own interior biography. In fine, success must infallibly
attend this special priesthood (whether episcopally "ordained" or
not) of all races, all colours, all tongues whatsoever, since their
lives reflect their teachings and their teachings reflect their
lives. Then, truly, they, "the righteous, shall inherit the earth,"
leading mankind along the highest and noblest paths of temporal
existence. Then, of course, the obeah, the cannibalism, the devil-
worship of the whole world, including that of Hayti, which Mr. Froude
predicts will be adopted by us Blacks in the West Indies, shall no
more encumber and scandalize the earth.

But Mr. Froude should, at the same time, be reminded that cannibalism
and the hideous concomitants which he mentions are, after all,
relatively minor and restricted dangers to man's civilization and
moral soundness. They can [229] neither operate freely nor expand
easily. The paralysis of horrified popular sentiment obstructs their
propagation, and the blight of the death-penalty which hangs over the
heads of their votaries is an additional guarantee of their being
kept within bounds that minimize their perniciousness. But there are
more fatal and further-reaching dangers to public morality and
happiness of which the regenerated current opinion of the future will
take prompt and remedial cognizance. Foremost among these will be the
circulation of malevolent writings whereby the equilibrium of
sympathy between good men of different races is sought to be
destroyed, through misleading appeals to the weaknesses and
prejudices of readers; writings in which the violation of actual
truth cannot, save by stark stupidity, be attributed to innocent
error; writings that scoff at humanitarian feeling and belittle the
importance of achievements resulting therefrom; writings which strike
at the root of national manliness, by eulogizing brute force directed
against weaker folk as a fit and legitimate mode of securing the
wishes of a mighty and enlightened people; writings, in fine, which
ignore the divine principle [230] in man, and implicitly deny the
possibility of a Divine Power existing outside of and above man, thus
materializing the mind, and tending to render the earth a worse hell
than it ever could have been with faith in the supremacy of a
beneficent Power.


221. *"Est deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo."--Ovid.


[233] Thus far we have dealt with the main questions raised by Mr.
Froude on the lines of his own choosing; lines which demonstrate to
the fullest how unsuited his capacity is for appreciating--still less
grappling with--the political and social issues he has so confidently
undertaken to determine. In vain have we sought throughout his
bastard philosophizing for any phrase giving promise of an adequate
treatment of this important subject. We find paraded ostentatiously
enough the doctrine that in the adjustment of human affairs the
possession of a white skin should be the strongest recommendation.
Wonder might fairly be felt that there is no suggestion of a
corresponding advantage being accorded to the possession of a long
nose or of auburn hair. Indeed, little [234] or no attention that
can be deemed serious is given to the interest of the Blacks, as a
large and (out of Africa) no longer despicable section of the human
family, in the great world-problems which are so visibly preparing
and press for definitive solutions. The intra-African Negro is
clearly powerless to struggle successfully against personal
enslavement, annexation, or volunteer forcible "protection" of his
territory. What, we ask, will in the coming ages be the opinion and
attitude of the extra-African millions--ten millions in the Western
Hemisphere--dispersed so widely over the surface of the globe, apt
apprentices in every conceivable department of civilized culture?
Will these men remain for ever too poor, too isolated from one
another for grand racial combinations? Or will the naturally opulent
cradle of their people, too long a prey to violence and unholy greed,
become at length the sacred watchword of a generation willing and
able to conquer or perish under its inspiration? Such large and
interesting questions it was within the province and duty of a famous
historian, laying confident claim to prophetic insight, not to
propound alone, but also definitely to solve. The sacred power [235]
of forecast, however, has been confined to finical pronouncements
regarding those for whose special benefit he has exercised it, and to
childish insults of the Blacks whose doom must be sealed to secure
the precious result which is aimed at. In view of this ill-
intentioned omission, we shall offer a few cursory remarks bearing
on, but not attempting to answer, those grave inquiries concerning
the African people. As in our humble opinion these are questions
paramount to all the petty local issues finically dilated on by the
confident prophet of "The Bow of Ulysses," we will here briefly
devote ourselves to its discussion.

Accepting the theory of human development propounded by our author,
let us apply it to the African race. Except, of course, to
intelligences having a share in the Councils of Eternity, there can
be no attainable knowledge respecting the laws which regulate the
growth and progress of civilization among the races of the earth.
That in the existence of the human family every age has been marked
by its own essential characteristics with regard to manifestations of
intellectual life, however circumscribed, is a proposition too self-
evident [236] to require more than the stating. But investigation
beyond such evidence as we possess concerning the past--whether
recorded by man himself in the written pages of history, or by the
Creator on the tablets of nature--would be worse than futile. We see
that in the past different races have successively come to the front,
as prominent actors on the world's stage. The years of civilized
development have dawned in turn on many sections of the human family,
and the Anglo-Saxons, who now enjoy preeminence, got their turn only
after Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome, and others had
successively held the palm of supremacy. And since these mighty
empires have all passed away, may we not then, if the past teaches
aught, confidently expect that other racial hegemonies will arise in
the future to keep up the ceaseless progression of temporal existence
towards the existence that is eternal? What is it in the nature of
things that will oust the African race from the right to participate,
in times to come, in the high destinies that have been assigned in
times past to so many races that have not been in anywise superior to
us in the qualifications, physical, moral, and intellectual, [237]
that mark out a race for prominence amongst other races?

The normal composition of the typical Negro has the testimony of ages
to its essential soundness and nobility. Physically, as an active
labourer, he is capable of the most protracted exertion under
climatic conditions the most exhausting. By the mere strain of his
brawn and sinew he has converted waste tracts of earth into fertile
regions of agricultural bountifulness. On the scenes of strife he
has in his savage state been known to be indomitable save by the
stress of irresistible forces, whether of men or of circumstances.
Staunch in his friendship and tender towards the weak directly under
his protection, the unvitiated African furnishes in himself the
combination of native virtue which in the land of his exile was so
prolific of good results for the welfare of the whole slave-class.
But distracted at home by the sudden irruptions of skulking foes, he
has been robbed, both intellectually and morally, of the immense
advantage of Peace, which is the mother of Progress. Transplanted to
alien climes, and through centuries of desolating trials, this
irrepressible race has [238] bated not one throb of its energy, nor
one jot of its heart or hope. In modern times, after his
expatriation into dismal bondage, both Britain and America have had
occasion to see that even in the paralysing fetters of political and
social degradation the right arm of the Ethiop can be a valuable
auxiliary on the field of battle. Britain, in her conflict with
France for supremacy in the West Indies, did not disdain the aid of
the sable arms that struck together with those of Britons for the
trophies that furnished the motives for those epic contests.

Later on, the unparalleled struggle between the Northern and Southern
States of the American Union put to the test the indestructible
fibres of the Negro's nature, moral as well as physical. The
Northern States, after months of hesitating repugnance, and when
taught at last by dire defeats that colour did not in any way help to
victory, at length sullenly acquiesced in the comradeship, hitherto
disdained, of the eager African contingent. The records of Port
Hudson, Vicksburg, Morris Island, and elsewhere, stand forth in
imperishable attestation of the fact that the distinction of being
laurelled during life as victor, or filling [239] in death a hero's
grave, is reserved for no colour, but for the heart that can dare and
the hand that can strike boldly in a righteous cause. The experience
of the Southern slave-holders, on the other hand, was no less
striking and worthy of admiration. Every man of the twelve seceding
States forming the Southern Confederacy, then fighting desperately
for the avowed purpose of perpetuating slavery, was called into the
field, as no available male arm could be spared from the conflict on
their side. Plantation owner, overseer, and every one in authority,
had to be drafted away from the scene of their usual occupation to
the stage whereon the bloody drama of internecine strife was being
enacted. Not only the plantation, but the home and the household,
including the mistress and her children, had to be left, not
unprotected, it is glorious to observe, but, with confident assurance
in their loyalty and good faith, under the protection of the four
million of bondsmen, who, through the laws and customs of these very
States, had been doomed to lifelong ignorance and exclusion from all
moralizing influences. With what result? The protraction of the
conflict on the part of the South would [240] have been impossible
but for the admirable management and realization of their resources
by those benighted slaves. On the other hand, not one of the
thousands of Northern prisoners escaping from the durance of a
Southern captivity ever appealed in vain for the assistance and
protection of a Negro. Clearly the head and heart of those bondsmen
were each in its proper place. The moral effect of these experiences
of the Negroes' sterling qualities was not lost on either North or
South. In the North it effaced from thousands of repugnant hearts
the adverse feelings which had devised and accomplished so much to
the Negro's detriment. In the South--but for the blunders of the
Reconstructionists--it would have considerably facilitated the final
readjustment of affairs between the erewhile master and slave in
their new-born relations of employer and employed.

Reverting to the Africans who were conveyed to places other than the
States, it will be seen that circumstances amongst them and in their
favour came into play, modifying and lightening their unhappy
condition. First, attention must be paid to the patriotic solidarity
existing [241] amongst the bondsmen, a solidarity which, in the case
of those who had been deported in the same ship, had all the sanctity
of blood-relationship. Those who had thus travelled to the "white
man's country" addressed and considered each other as brothers and
sisters. Hence their descendants for many generations upheld, as if
consanguineous, the modes of address and treatment which became
hereditary in families whose originals had travelled in the same
ship. These adopted uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, were so united
by common sympathies, that good or ill befalling any one of them
intensely affected the whole connection. Mutual support commensurate
with the area of their location thus became the order among these
people. At the time of the first deportation of Africans to the West
Indies to replace the aborigines who had been decimated in the mines
at Santo Domingo and in the pearl fisheries of the South Caribbean,
the circumstances of the Spanish settlers in the Antilles were of
singular, even romantic, interest.

The enthusiasm which overflowed from the crusades and the Moorish
wars, upon the discovery and conquest of America, had occasioned
[242] the peopling of the Western Archipelago by a race of men in
whom the daring of freebooters was strangely blended with a fierce
sort of religiousness. As holders of slaves, these men recognized,
and endeavoured to their best to give effect to, the humane
injunctions of Bishop Las Casas. The Negroes, therefore, male and
female, were promptly presented for admission by baptism into the
Catholic Church, which always had stood open and ready to welcome
them. The relations of god-father and god-mother resulting from
these baptismal functions had a most important bearing on the
reciprocal stations of master and slave. The god-children were,
according to ecclesiastical custom, considered in every sense
entitled to all the protection and assistance which were within the
competence of the god-parents, who, in their turn, received from the
former the most absolute submission. It is easy to see that the
planters, as well as those intimately connected with them, in
assuming such obligations with their concomitant responsibilities,
practically entered into bonds which they all regarded as, if
possible, more solemn than the natural ties of secular parentage.
The duty [243] of providing for these dependents usually took the
shape of their being apprenticed to, and trained in the various arts
and vocations that constitute the life of civilization. In many
cases, at the death of their patrons, the bondsmen who were deemed
most worthy were, according to the means of the testator, provided
for in a manner lifting them above the necessity of future
dependence. Manumission, too, either by favour or through purchase,
was allowed the fullest operation. Here then was the active
influence of higher motives than mere greed of gain or the pride of
racial power mellowing the lot and gilding the future prospects of
the dwellers in the tropical house of bondage.

The next, and even more effectual agency in modifying and harmonizing
the relations between owner and bondspeople was the inevitable
attraction of one race to the other by the sentiment of natural
affection. Out of this sprang living ties far more intimate and
binding on the moral sense than even obligations contracted in
deference to the Church. Natural impulses have often diviner sources
than ecclesiastical mandates. Obedience to the former not seldom
brings down the penalties of the Church; but [244] the culprit finds
solace in the consciousness that the offence might in itself be a
protection from the thunders it has provoked. Under these
circumstances the general body of planters, who were in the main
adventurers of the freest type, were fain to establish connections
with such of the slave-women as attracted their sympathy, through
personal comeliness or aptitude in domestic affairs, or, usually,
both combined. There was ordinarily in this beginning of the
seventeenth century no Vashti that needed expulsion from the abode of
a plantation Ahasuerus to make room for the African Esther to be
admitted to the chief place within the portals. One great natural
consequence of this was the extension to the relatives or guardians
of the bondswoman so preferred of an amount of favour which, in the
case of the more capable males, completes the parallel we have been
drawing by securing for each of them the precedence and
responsibilities of a Mordecai. The offspring of these natural
alliances came in therefore to cement more intimately the union of
interests which previous relations had generated. Beloved by their
fathers, and in many cases destined by them to a lot superior [245]
to that whereto they were entitled by formal law and social
prescription, these young procreations--Mulattos, as they were
called--were made the objects of special and careful provisions on
the fathers' part. They were, according to the means of their
fathers in the majority of cases, sent for education and training to
European or other superior institutions. After this course they were
either formally acknowledged by their fathers, or, if that was
impracticable, amply and suitably provided for in a career out of
their native colony. To a reflecting mind there is something that
interests, not to say fascinates, in studying the action and reaction
upon one another of circumstances in the existence of the Mulatto.
As a matter of fact, he had much more to complain of under the slave
system than his pure-blooded African relations. The law, by
decreeing that every child of a freeman and a slave woman must follow
the fortune of the womb, thus making him the property of his mother
exclusively, practically robbed him before his very birth of the
nurture and protection of a father. His reputed father had no
obligation to be even aware of his procreation, and nevertheless
[246] --so inscrutable are the ways of Providence!--the Mulatto was
the centre around which clustered the outraged instincts of nature in
rebellion against the desecrating mandates that prescribed treason to
herself. Law and society may decree; but in our normal humanity
there throbs a sentiment which neutralizes every external impulse
contrary to its promptings.

In meditating on the varied history of the Negro in the United
States, since his first landing on the banks of the James River in
1619 till the Emancipation Act of President Lincoln in 1865, it is
curious to observe that the elevation of the race, though in a great
measure secured, proceeded from circumstances almost the reverse of
those that operated so favourably in the same direction elsewhere.
The men of the slave-holding States, chiefly Puritans or influenced
by Puritanic surroundings, were not under the ecclesiastical sway
which rendered possible in the West Indies and other Catholic
countries the establishment of the reciprocal bonds of god-parents
and god-children. The self-same causes operated to prevent any large
blending of the two races, inasmuch as the immigrant from Britain who
[247] had gone forth from his country to better his fortune had not
left behind him his attachment to the institutions of the mother-
land, among which marrying, whenever practicable, was one of the most
cherished. Above all, too, as another powerful check at first to
such alliances between the ruling and servile races of the States,
there existed the native idiosyncracy of the Anglo-Saxon. That class
of them who had left Britain were likelier than the more refined of
their nation to exhibit in its crudest and cruellest form the innate
jealousy and contempt of other races that pervades the Anglo-Saxon
bosom. It is but a simple fact that, whenever he condescended
thereto, familiarity with even the loveliest of the subject people
was regarded as a mighty self-unbending for which the object should
be correspondingly grateful. So there could, in the beginning, be no
frequent instances of the romantic chivalry that gilded the quasi-
marital relations of the more fervid and humane members of the Latin

But this kind of intercourse, which in the earlier generation was
undoubtedly restricted in North America by the checks above adverted
to, and, presumably, also by the mutual unintelligibility [248] in
speech, gradually expanded with the natural increase of the slave
population. The American-born, English-speaking Negro girl, who had
in many cases been the playmate of her owner, was naturally more
intelligible, more accessible, more attractive--and the inevitable
consequence was the extension apace of that intercourse, the
offspring whereof became at length so visibly numerous.

Among the Romans, the grandest of all colonizers, the individual's
Civis Romanus sum--I am a Roman citizen--was something more than
verbal vapouring; it was a protective talisman--a buckler no less
than a sword. Yet was the possession of this noble and singular
privilege no barrier to Roman citizens meeting on a broad
humanitarian level any alien race, either allied to or under the
protection of that world-famous commonwealth. In the speeches of the
foremost orators and statesmen among the conquerors of the then known
world, the allusions to subject or allied aliens are distinguished by
a decorous observance of the proprieties which should mark any
reference to those who had the dignity of Rome's [249] friendship, or
the privilege of her august protection. Observations, therefore,
regarding individuals of rank in these alien countries had the same
sobriety and deference which marked allusions to born Romans of
analogous degree. Such magnanimity, we grieve to say, is not
characteristic of the race which now replaces the Romans in the
colonizing leadership of the world. We read with feelings akin to
despair of the cheap, not to say derogatory, manner in which, in both
Houses of Parliament, native potentates, especially of non-European
countries, are frequently spoken of by the hereditary aristocracy and
the first gentlemen of the British Empire. The inborn racial
contempt thus manifested in quarters where rigid self-control and
decorum should form the very essence of normal deportment, was not
likely, as we have before hinted, to find any mollifying ingredient
in the settlers on the banks of the Mississippi. Therefore should we
not be surprised to find, with regard to many an illicit issue of
"down South," the arrogance of race so overmastering the promptings
of nature as to render not unfrequent at the auction-block the sight
of many a chattel of mixed blood, the offspring [250] of some planter
whom business exigency had forced to this commercial transaction as
the readiest mode of self-release. Yet were the exceptions to this
rule enough to contribute appreciably to the weight and influence of
the mixed race in the North, where education and a fair standing had
been clandestinely secured for their children by parents to whom law
and society had made it impossible to do more, and whom conscience
rendered incapable of stopping at less.

From this comparative sketch of the history of the slaves in the
States, in the West Indies and countries adjacent, it will be
perceived that in the latter scenes of bondage everything had
conspired to render a fusion of interests between the ruling and the
servile classes not only easy, but inevitable. In the very first
generation after their introduction, the Africans began to press
upward, a movement which every decade has accelerated, in spite of
the changes which supervened as each of the Colonies fell under
British sway. Nearly two centuries had by this time elapsed, and the
coloured influence, which had grown with their wealth, education,
numbers, and unity, though [251] circumscribed by the emancipation of
the slaves, and the consequent depression in fortune of all slave-
owners, never was or could be annihilated. In the Government service
there were many for whom the patronage of god-parents or the sheer
influence of their family had effected an entrance. The prevalence
and potency of the influences we have been dilating upon may be
gauged by the fact that personages no less exalted than Governors of
various Colonies--of Trinidad in three authentic cases--have been
sharers in the prevailing usages, in the matter of standing sponsors
(by proxy), and also of relaxing in the society of some fascinating
daughter of the sun from the tension and wear of official duty. In
the three cases just referred to, the most careful provision was made
for the suitable education and starting in life of the issues. For
the god-children of Governors there were places in the public
service, and so from the highest to the lowest the humanitarian
intercourse of the classes was confirmed.

Consequent on the frequent abandonment of their plantations by many
owners who despaired of being able to get along by paying [252] their
way, an opening was made for the insinuation of Absenteeism into our
agricultural, in short, our economic existence. The powerful sugar
lords, who had invested largely in the cane plantations, were fain to
take over and cultivate the properties which their debtors doggedly
refused to continue working, under pretext of the entire absence, or
at any rate unreliability, of labour. The representatives of those
new transatlantic estate proprietors displaced, but never could
replace, the original cultivators, who were mostly gentlemen as well
as agriculturists. It was from this overseer class that the
vituperations and slanders went forth that soon became stereotyped,
concerning the Negro's incorrigible laziness and want of ambition--
those gentry adjusting the scale of wages, not according to the
importance and value of the labour done, but according to the
scornful estimate which they had formed of the Negro personally. And
when the wages were fixed fairly, they almost invariably sought to
indemnify themselves for their enforced justice by the insulting
license of their tongues, addressed to males and females alike. The
influence of such men on local legislation, in which they [253] had a
preponderating share, either as actual proprietors or as the
attorneys of absentees, was not in the direction of refinement or
liberality. Indeed, the kind of laws which they enacted, especially
during the apprenticeship (1834-8), is thus summarized by one, and
him an English officer, who was a visitor in those agitated days of
the Colonies:--

"It is demonstrated that the laws which were to come into operation
immediately on expiration of the apprenticeship are of the most
objectionable character, and fully established the fact not only of a
future intention to infringe the rights of the emancipated classes,
but of the actual commencement and extensive progress of a Colonial
system for that purpose. The object of the laws is to circumscribe
the market for free labour--to prohibit the possession or sale of
ordinary articles of produce on sale, the obvious intention of which
is to confine the emancipated classes to a course of agricultural
servitude--to give the employers a monopoly of labour, and to keep
down a free competition for wages--to create new and various modes of
apprenticeship for the purpose of prolonging predial service,
together with many evils of the [254] late system--to introduce
unnecessary restraint and coercion, the design of which is to create
a perpetual surveillance over the liberated negroes, and to establish
a legislative despotism. The several laws passed are based upon the
most vicious principles of legislation, and in their operation will
be found intolerably oppressive and entirely subversive of the just
intentions of the British Legislature."

These liberal-souled gentry were, in sooth, Mr. Froude's
"representatives" of Britain, whose traditions steadily followed in
their families, he has so well and sympathetically set forth.

We thus see that the irritation and rancour seething in the breast of
the new plantocracy, of whom the majority was of the type that then
also flourished in Barbados, Jamaica, and Demerara, were nourished
and kept acute in order to crush the African element. Harm was done,
certainly; but not to the ruinous extent sometimes declared. It was
too late for perfect success, as, according to the Negroes' own
phrase, people of colour had by that time already "passed the lock-
jaw"* stage (at which trifling misadventures [255] might have nipped
the germ of their progress in the bud.) In spite of adverse
legislation, and in spite of the scandalous subservience of certain
Governors to the Colonial Legislatures, the Race can point with
thankfulness and pride to the visible records of their success
wherever they have permanently sojourned.

Primary education of a more general and undiscriminating character,
especially as to race and colour, was secured for the bulk of the
West Indies by voluntary undertakings, and notably through the
munificent provision of Lady Mico, which extended to the whole of the
principal islands.

Thanks to Lord Harris for introducing, and to Sir Arthur Gordon for
extending to the secondary stage, the public education of Trinidad,
there has been since Emancipation, that is, during the last thirty-
seven years, a more effective bringing together in public schools of
various grades, of children of all races and ranks. Rivals at home,
at school and college, in books as well as on the playground, they
have very frequently gone abroad together to learn the professions
they have selected. In this way there is an intercommunion between
all the [256] intelligent sections of the inhabitants, based on a
common training and the subtle sympathies usually generated in
enlightened breasts by intimate personal knowledge. In mixed
communities thus circumstanced, there is no possibility of
maintaining distinctions based on mere colour, as advocated by Mr.

The following brief summary by the Rev. P. H. Doughlin, Rector of St.
Clement's, Trinidad, a brilliant star among the sons of Ham, embodies
this fact in language which, so far as it goes, is as comprehensive
as it is weighty:--

"Who could, without seeming to insult the intelligence of men, have
predicted on the day of Emancipation that the Negroes then released
from the blight and withering influence of ten generations of cruel
bondage, so weakened and half-destroyed--so denationalized and
demoralized--so despoiled and naked, would be in the position they
are now? In spite of the proud, supercilious, and dictatorial
bearing of their teachers, in spite of the hampering of
unsympathetic, alien oversight, in spite of the spirit of dependence
and servility engendered by slavery, not only have individual members
of the race entered into all the offices of dignity in [257] Church
and State, as subalterns--as hewers of wood and drawers of water--but
they have attained to the very highest places. Here in the West
Indies, and on the West Coast of Africa, are to be found Surgeons of
the Negro Race, Solicitors, Barristers, Mayors, Councillors,
Principals and Founders of High Schools and Colleges, Editors and
Proprietors of Newspapers, Archdeacons, Bishops, Judges, and Authors-
-men who not only teach those immediately around them, but also teach
the world. Members of the race have even been entrusted with the
administration of Governments. And it is not mere commonplace men
that the Negro Race has produced. Not only have the British
Universities thought them worthy of their honorary degrees and
conferred them on them, but members of the race have won these
University degrees. A few years back a full-blooded Negro took the
highest degree Oxford has to give to a young man. The European world
is looking with wonder and admiration at the progress made by the
Negro Race--a progress unparalleled in the annals of the history of
any race."

To this we may add that in the domain [258] of high literature the
Blacks of the United States, for the twenty-five years of social
emancipation, and despite the lingering obstructions of caste
prejudice, have positively achieved wonders. Leaving aside the
writings of men of such high calibre as F. Douglass, Dr. Hyland
Garnet, Prof. Crummell, Prof. E. Blyden, Dr. Tanner, and others, it
is gratifying to be able to chronicle the Ethiopic women of North
America as moving shoulder to shoulder with the men in the highest
spheres of literary activity. Among a brilliant band of these our
sisters, conspicuous no less in poetry than in prose, we single out
but a solitary name for the double purpose of preserving brevity and
of giving in one embodiment the ideal Afro-American woman of letters.
The allusion here can scarcely fail to point to Mrs. S. Harper. This
lady's philosophical subtlety of reasoning on grave questions finds
effective expression in a prose of singular precision and vigour.
But it is as a poet that posterity will hail her in the coming ages
of our Race. For pathos, depth of spiritual insight, and magical
exercise of a rare power of self-utterance, it will hardly be
questioned that she has surpassed every competitor [259] among
females--white or black--save and except Elizabeth Barett Browning,
with whom the gifted African stands on much the same plane of poetic

The above summary of our past vicissitudes and actual position shows
that there is nothing in our political circumstances to occasion
uneasiness. The miserable skin and race doctrine we have been
discussing does not at all prefigure the destinies at all events of
the West Indies, or determine the motives that will affect them.
With the exception of those belonging to the Southern states of the
Union, the vast body of African descendants now dispersed in various
countries of the Western Hemisphere are at sufficient peace to begin
occupying themselves, according to some fixed programme, about
matters of racial importance. More than ten millions of Africans are
scattered over the wide area indicated, and possess amongst them
instances of mental and other qualifications which render them
remarkable among their fellow-men. But like the essential parts of a
complicated albeit perfect machine, these attainments and
qualifications so widely dispersed await, it is evident, some
potential [260] agency to collect and adjust them into the vast
engine essential for executing the true purposes of the civilized
African Race. Already, especially since the late Emancipation
Jubilee, are signs manifest of a desire for intercommunion and
intercomprehension amongst the more distinguished of our people.
With intercourse and unity of purpose will be secured the means to
carry out the obvious duties which are sure to devolve upon us,
especially with reference to the cradle of our Race, which is most
probably destined to be the ultimate resting-place and headquarters
of millions of our posterity. Within the short time that we had to
compass all that we have achieved, there could not have arisen
opportunities for doing more than we have effected. Meanwhile our
present device is: "Work, Hope, and Wait!"

Finally, it must be borne in mind that the abolition of physical
bondage did not by any means secure all the requisite conditions of
"a fair field and no favour" for the future career of the freedmen.
The remnant of Jacob, on their return from the Captivity, were
compelled, whilst rebuilding their Temple, literally to labour with
the working tool in one hand [261] and the sword for personal defence
in the other. Even so have the conditions, figuratively, presented
themselves under which the Blacks have been obliged to rear the
fabric of self-elevation since 1838, whilst combating ceaselessly the
obstacles opposed to the realizing of their legitimate aspirations.
Mental and, in many cases, material success has been gained, but the
machinery for accumulating and applying the means required for
comprehensive racial enterprises is waiting on Providence, time, and
circumstances for its establishment and successful working.


254. *"Yo té'ja passé mal machoè"--in metaphorical allusion to new-
born infants who have lived beyond a certain number of days.


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