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- Bricks Without Straw - 30/87 -


much. But you should not get so excited. Calm yourself! I am sure I don't see why you should take such a course; but, as you say, they are two bright girls and will make good teachers, which are much needed."

"Thank God! thank God!" cried the cripple, as his head fell again upon his arms. After a moment he half raised it and said, weakly,

"Will you please call Nimbus, Miss Mollie? I must go home now. And please, Miss Mollie, don't think hard of 'Liab--don't, Miss Mollie," he said humbly.

"Why should I?" she asked in surprise. "You have acted nobly, though I cannot think you have done wisely. You are nervous now. You may think differently hereafter. If you do, you have only to say so. I will call Nimbus. Good-by!"

She took her hat and gloves and went down the aisle. Happening to turn near the door to replace a book her dress had brushed from a desk, she saw him gazing after her with a look that haunted her memory long afterward.

As the door closed behind her he slid from his chair and bowed his head upon it, crying out in a voice of tearful agony, "Thank God! thank God!" again and again, while his unfinished form shook with hysteric sobs. "And _she_ said I was not wise!" he half laughed, as the tears ran down his face and he resumed his invocation of thankfulness. Thus Nimbus found him and carried him home with his wonted tenderness, soothing him like a babe, and wondering what had occurred to discompose his usually sedate and cheerful friend.

"I declare, Lucy," said Mollie Ainslie that evening, to her co-worker, over their cosy tea, "I don't believe I shall ever get to understand these people. There is that Eliab Hill, who was getting along so nicely, has concluded to give up his studies. I believe he is half crazy anyhow. He raved about it, and glared at me so that I was half frightened out of my wits. I wonder why it is that cripples are always so queer, anyhow?"

She would have been still more amazed if she had known that from that day Eliab Hill devoted himself to his studies with a redoubled energy, which more than made up for the loss of his teacher's aid. Had she herself been less a child she would have seen that he whom she had treated as such was, in truth, a man of rare strength.

CHAPTER XXII.

HOW THE FALLOW WAS SEEDED.

The time had come when the influences so long at work, the seed which the past had sown in the minds and hearts of races, must at length bear fruit. The period of actual reconstruction had passed, and independent, self-regulating States had taken the place of Military Districts and Provisional Governments. The people of the South began, little by little, to realize that they held their future in their own hands--that the supervising and restraining power of the General Government had been withdrawn. The colored race, yet dazed with the new light of liberty, were divided between exultation and fear. They were like a child taking his first steps--full of joy at the last accomplished, full of terror at the one which was before.

The state of mind of the Southern white man, with reference to the freedman and his exaltation to the privilege of citizenship is one which cannot be too frequently analyzed or too closely kept in mind by one who desires fully to apprehend the events which have since occurred, and the social and political structure of the South at this time.

As a rule, the Southern man had been a kind master to his slaves. Conscious cruelty was the exception. The real evils of the system were those which arose from its _un_-conscious barbarism--the natural and inevitable results of holding human beings as chattels, without right, the power of self-defence or protestation--dumb driven brutes, deprived of all volition or hope, subservient to another's will, and bereft of every motive for self-improvement as well as every opportunity to rise. The effect of this upon the dominant race was to fix in their minds, with the strength of an absorbing passion, the idea of their own innate and unimpeachable superiority, of the unalterable inferiority of the slave-race, of the infinite distance between the two, and of the depth of debasement implied by placing the two races, in any respect, on the same level. The Southern mind had no antipathy to the negro in a menial or servile relation. On the contrary, it was generally kind and considerate of him, as such. It regarded him almost precisely as other people look upon other species of animate property, except that it conceded to him the possession of human passions, appetites, and motives. As a farmer likes to turn a favorite horse into a fine pasture, watch his antics, and see him roll and feed and run; as he pats and caresses him when he takes him out, and delights himself in the enjoyment of the faithful beast--just so the slave-owner took pleasure in the slave's comfort, looked with approval upon his enjoyment of the domestic relation, and desired to see him sleek and hearty, and physically well content.

It was only _as a man_ that the white regarded the black with aversion; and, in that point of view, the antipathy was all the more intensely bitter since he considered the claim to manhood an intrusion upon the sacred and exclusive rights of his own race. This feeling was greatly strengthened by the course of legislation and legal construction, both national and State. Many of the subtlest exertions of American intellect were those which traced and defined the line of demarcation, until there was built up between the races, _considered as men_, a wall of separation as high as heaven and as deep as hell.

It may not be amiss to cite some few examples of this, which will serve at once to illustrate the feeling itself, and to show the steps in its progress.

1. It was held by our highest judicial tribunal that the phrase "we the people," in the Declaration of Independence, did not include slaves, who were excluded from the inherent rights recited therein and accounted divine and inalienable, embracing, of course, the right of self-government, which rested on the others as substantial premises.

2. The right or privilege, whichever it may be, of intermarriage with the dominant race was prohibited to the African in all the States, both free and slave, and, for all legal purposes, that man was accounted "colored" who had one-sixteenth of African blood.

3. The common-law right of self-defence was gradually reduced by legal subtlety, in the slave States, until only the merest shred remained to the African, while the lightest word of disobedience or gesture of disrespect from him, justified an assault on the part of the white man.

4. Early in the present century it was made a crime in all the States of the South to teach a slave to read, the free blacks were disfranchised, and the most stringent restraining statutes extended over them, including the prohibition of public assembly, even for divine worship, unless a white man were present.

5. Emancipation was not allowed except by decree of a court of record after tedious formality and the assumption of onerous responsibilities on the part of the master; and it was absolutely forbidden to be done by testament.

6. As indicative of the fact that this antipathy was directed against the colored man as a free agent, a man, solely, may be cited the well-known fact of the enormous admixture of the races by illicit commerce at the South, and the further fact that this was, in very large measure, consequent upon the conduct of the most refined and cultivated elements of Southern life. As a thing, an animal, a mere existence, or as the servant of his desire and instrument of his advancement, the Southern Caucasian had no antipathy to the colored race. As one to serve, to nurse, to minister to his will and pleasure, he appreciated and approved of the African to the utmost extent.

7. Every exercise of manly right, sentiment, or inclination, on the part of the negro, was rigorously repressed. To attempt to escape was a capital crime if repeated once or twice; to urge others to escape was also capitally punishable; to learn to read, to claim the rights of property, to speak insolently, to meet for prayer without the sanction of the white man's presence, were all offences against the law; and in this case, as in most others, the law was an index as well as the source of a public sentiment, which grew step by step with its progress in unconscious barbarity.

8. Perhaps the best possible indication of the force of this sentiment, in its ripened and intensest state, is afforded by the course of the Confederate Government in regard to the proposal that it should arm the slaves. In the very crisis of the struggle, when the passions of the combatants were at fever heat, this proposition was made. There was no serious question as to the efficiency or faithfulness of the slaves. The masters did not doubt that, if armed, with the promise of freedom extended to them, they would prove most effective allies, and would secure to the Confederacy that autonomy which few thoughtful men at that time believed it possible to achieve by any other means. Such was the intensity of this sentiment, however, that it was admitted to be impossible to hold the Southern soldiery in the field should this measure be adopted. So that the Confederacy, rather than surrender a tithe of its prejudice against the negro _as a man_, rather than owe its life to him, serving in the capacity of a soldier, chose to suffer defeat and overthrow. The African might raise the food, build the breastworks, and do aught of menial service or mere manual labor required for the support of the Confederacy, without objection or demurrer on the part of any; but they would rather surrender all that they had fought so long and so bravely to secure, rather than admit, even by inference, his equal manhood or his fitness for the duty and the danger of a soldier's life. It was a grand stubborness, a magnificent adherence to an adopted and declared principle, which loses nothing of its grandeur from the fact that we may believe the principle to have been erroneous.

9. Another very striking and peculiar illustration of this sentiment is the fact that one of the most earnest advocates of the abolition of slavery, and a type of its Southern opponents, the author of "The Impending Crisis"--a book which did more than any other to crystallize and confirm the sentiment awakened at the North by "Uncle Tom's Cabin"--was perhaps more bitterly averse to the freedom, citizenship, and coexistence of the African with the Caucasian than any man that has ever written on the subject. He differed from his slaveholding neighbors only in this: _they_ approved the African as a menial,


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