A few words from the past

Posted on January 30, 2009 by


Browsing through the Staunton Spectator today at the Valley of the Shadow site, I came across the following newspaper article (from October 15, 1867):

A Few Words to the Colored People

An election is at hand, and in the Providence of God, you are called on to take part in it. No one doubts your wish to do what is best for yourselves and the country. The question is, how can you best promote these objects? You will find plenty of designing people, who, for their own wicked purposes, will seek to mislead you. They want offices and power for themselves, and they wish to use you, as the monkey used the cat’s paw, to draw the hot chestnuts out of the fire. Such men will try to array you against your old masters, and get you to vote, in solid column, for these pretended friends. Will you advance your interests in this way? Who now gives you employment? Who furnishes your houses, and fuel and food and clothing? Is it the man who seeks to mislead you, or those against whom they seek to array you?

Suppose you listen to the counsels of these bad men, do you think the men of property will employ those who turn against them? If they do, they will act differently now, from what they have done heretofore. There are thousands of white people in the North, and tens of thousands of Irish and Germans, who want the employment and the profits of the business you now have. Do you wish them to get it? Do you wish to give it up in their favor? If so, prove to the men of property that you are against them, and their interests, and the country will soon swarm with white servants and laborers, and you will see your error when it is too late.

Do you think the Northern people set you free out of any love they bore for you? By no means. They did it through necessity, not to help you, but to hurt the people of the South. Who brought your forefathers from Africa and made them slaves? It was the people of the North. They sent their ships to Africa, and either stole or traded for negroes, and brought them here and sold them to the people of the South?

All the Northern States once had slaves.-What did they do with them? Did they set them free? By no means! They sold them South, and then cried out against the wickedness of slavery!

Are they your friends now? Do they want to give you the right to vote, and be on an equality with whites, in the Northern States? Let the late vote in Ohio, where the people decided against negro suffrage, by fifty thousand majority, answer the question.

Have you ever thought of the reason why Northern people were so anxious to get rid of slavery? Was it from affection to you? Quite the reverse. There are thousands of poor white people in the North, who want to come here.-They want the places you now hold, and the profits of the employment you now have. In a word they want to root you out, to make room for themselves. As long as you had intelligent and powerful masters to protect you, they could not do this. They saw it, and like cunning fellows as they are, they made a flank movement on you, and sought to do indirectly, what they could not do directly. The first step was to sever the connection between you and your old masters, and thereby withdraw their protection from you. To this end, they set you free, and are trying now to array you against those with whom you were born and raised. As soon as they get you fairly cut loose from the protection of your old masters, and in the position of a dog without an owner, they will kick and cuff you at pleasure, and there will be not one to defend you. You will fall between two stools.-You will lose your old friends, and gain no new ones.

Let any colored man or woman, go to any Northern State, and try to get employment in any factory, or as driver of a street car, or as hackman, &c., and see who soon he will be pelted with stones, or beaten with clubs!

The fondness of the Yankee for the negro is all pretense. Before five years you will see another negro excitement in the North. This time it will be not for , but against the negro.-It will be to run him out of the country. This was Lincoln’s idea, as expressed by him to a colored delegation which called him.

Northern interest stimulated abolition, to make you defenceless, and now that you are defenceless, the Northern people will drive you out, to make room for themselves. They drove your fathers out of the Northern States, and they will drive you out of the Southern States into Mexico. Mark what we say and remember it!

Again, this was from 1867, but don’t we hear many of these same arguments again in our “encounters” during discourse focused on Civil War memory?