Saturday, March 31, 2007

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 6




One of the most portentous of the questions that loom up before the people of this country, and one that is fraught with the greatest possible danger unless settled in time, and settled aright, is the race question. To the white people of the south the possibility of negro supremacy constantly haunts them like a spectre. Increase in numbers, increase in wealth, increase in education and culture are all looked upon with extreme jealousy and apprehension. The more thrifty and enterprising the blacks are; in other words, the better citizens they become the more imminent appears the danger. What shall be done? This common fear has heretofore kept the south solid for one political party by practically disfranchising the blacks through the manipulations made possible by law and politics, or by actual force and fraud. This again furnishes other politicians with excuses for fanning the flames of race prejudice, and paving the way to an open rupture. On one side, disfranchisement by law is advocated openly in order to provide against the danger of negro supremacy; and on the other, a measure of force is urged to compel respect for the rights of the negro to the ballot. These are Just the conditions out of which are liable to come serious trouble; and many already predict a most relentless and terrible race war in the south within the next twenty-five years.

At the close of the late civil war it was widely believed that the negro race was so inferior that when brought directly in competition with the white man, free from whatever protection slavery was supposed to afford, his natural inferiority would [337] place him at such a disadvantage that he would be unable to hold his own; and, like the Indian, would rapidly diminish in numbers, and finally become extinct. But the truth appears now that in some parts of the south, at least, the negroes are increasing more rapidly than the whites. And, although I know of no reliable data upon which positive conclusions can be based, I think it will be found that where emigration has not sensibly decreased their numbers, they are everywhere increasing more rapidly than the native white population. I have come to this conclusion notwithstanding the statement of Robert P. Porter, superintendent of the census of 1890, in one of the advance bulletins of that census. He states that, “during the last decade the colored population of the south has not held its own against the whites in the region where climate is most favorable.” But it will only take a moment’ s examination to see that the census upon which Mr. Porter based his hypothesis is utterly worthless for any purposes of generalization. For instance: in Alabama, in the period from 1860 to 1870, the white population decreased 0.93 per cent. but the blacks increased 8.62 during the same time. Turning to the census of 1890 we find the whites increased from 1880 to 1890, 25.46 per cent. while the blacks only increased 13.55 per cent. during the same time. What was it that gave the whites so much greater increase? Without doubt it was immigration. During the last decade a considerable tide of white immigration has been pouring into all the southern states. On the other hand there has been a counter current of blacks northward and westward. Superintendent Porter shows that in Arkansas from 1860 to 1870, when changes from immigration were slight, the whites increased 11.71 per cent. while the blacks only showed 9.81 per cent. of increase; but from 1880 to 1890 the ratios were 38.03 of increase for the whites, while the blacks were 47.40. What was it [339] that made the blacks so much more fertile than the whites in the last decade, when they were less so in the other? And what should make the increase in both of them so much greater than in Maryland for the same period, where the whites increased 13.72 per cent. against the blacks’ 3.70 per cent? Evidently it was owing again to shifting populations. Those migrations of population have been sufficiently great to destroy any value which generalizations would have, based upon any census showing of a stable population. This is even more strikingly shown in the case of the Virginias. In old Virginia, the increase in white population from 1880 to 1890, was 15.19 per cent. while the colored population only increased 1.46 per cent. In West Virginia, right along side of it, the white population increased during the same time 23.07 per cent; but even that is left far in the rear by the colored, which shows 29.44 per cent. increase. Are we to understand that the ratio of fecundity of the blacks between old Virginia and West Virginia is as 1.46 in the former to 29.44 in the latter? If the census figures are intended to show a lower degree of vitality on the part of the black population than exists among the whites, they are utterly worthless for the purpose. But there are other evidences which go to show that the blacks, as a race, possess a vigor and tenacity which were little expected twenty-five years ago.

Whatever the truth may be as to numbers, mere numbers are of slight consequence. As we have seen, numbers count for little in the control of public matters, if by public matters is meant the control of government, and the shaping of the state. The real thing that does control is wealth.

Now the blacks are a progressive race, not only as regards population, but they are extremely thrifty. While their standards of living have undoubtedly risen on the whole since their emancipation, [340] both can and do live with greater frugality than the whites. Their earnings are hoarded until they can be safely and profitably invested. One characteristic, I am told, is that they seldom if ever buy subject to a mortgage, but nearly always pay all cash down. This relieves them of the danger of losses by foreclosure, and the burden of interest charges, as in the case of men who buy on time. While they undoubtedly do work for small wages, this very fact tends to keep them constantly employed; and their frugality enables them always to save a portion, so that with almost all of them there is a steady accumulation.

A recent writer, in treating of this subject, stated that according to a late census of the state of Georgia, the colored population in that state were paying taxes upon $15,000,000 of valuation of real property. As the assessed valuations in that state are regularly made upon the basis of one half of the actual value, this would indicate that at least $30,000,000 of the real estate of Georgia is already in the hands of the colored population. This writer saw in this, grave danger to the continued supremacy of the whites. He looked forward to the time when the wealth of the state would be mainly owned by negroes; and as wealth also confers power, they would be the employers of labor, could dictate the policy of the state, and would come to rule the descendants of their former masters. To him there was no other solution of the difficulty but to take away at once their political power before it became fortified by accumulated wealth. The alternative he presented was, that within the next twenty-five years would come a war of extermination between the whites and blacks, with all the horrors such a war would involve.

There is no doubt of the danger he portrays. Nor is it any less serious than he indicates. But the remedy he proposes, so far from averting the [341] danger would be the surest possible means of precipitating it. Any such general injustice enacted against the blacks must inevitably change an industrious, frugal, and contented people into a bitterly hostile one. It would not prevent their acquirement of power, because the power lies in the wealth instead of in the elective franchise. The simple and natural way is to take away the power which wealth gives. Then they may accumulate wealth to any extent, and it offers no menace to any one. It is true, it involves an abandonment of the supremacy of the whites; but it sets up no supremacy of any other in its place. It is a settlement that is perfectly just and equal. It is liberty to both whites and blacks. So long as either is supreme: so long as either rules the other, the question as to who shall rule will return to plague us and our children after us, until it is settled right, or settled in blood. So long as there is a law to administer, the question as to who shall do the administering will destroy the peace, and haunt both sides with hideous dreams of slavery, or tempt with visions of authority. Justice and liberty is the only desirable thing; it is the only safe thing for either side.

The foregoing is addressed to the mass of the whites irrespective of condition. I have something now to say to that portion of the white population of the south which does not enjoy any form of monopoly, the great middle and lower class. If trouble ever comes between the two races, the weight of the burden of it must certainly fall upon you. You are sure to be the sufferers. The supremacy of the government, is not your own supremacy. It is the supremacy of monopoly; and you are not the beneficiaries of monopoly. You have everything to lose by trouble between the races, and nothing to gain. A man from among your ranks may occasionally be elected to an office; but it cannot help the mass of the class itself. Monopoly cares no more for white [342] supremacy than it does for black, so long as it can maintain its own position. If it can do so to advantage it will use the blacks to crush the whites just as quickly as it will the whites against the blacks. This is proven over and over again by mine owners, and others, who hire a force of blacks to take the place of the whites on strike, just as quickly as they will hire whites to replace blacks. Monopoly secretly foments strife between races in order to plunder both of them; so that with the most combustible materials placed in such close proximity to each other, as the whites and the blacks of the south must continue to be placed, and then with another capable of igniting them, and whose interests are in igniting them, it is certain that there is going to be a fire. That combustibility may be destroyed, along with the interest any one could have in kindling the fire of discord, by doing away with the principle of government itself. Government is only useful to sustain the artificial rights of property set up by the law, in the interest of those who have the most property.

As an instance of the way that monopoly, or government, foments strife between races, in order to plunder them both, I may mention the Russian agitation against the Jews. The laws of property operate in Russia just as they do in the south, or in any other place in this world. They enable the Jews, who, like the negroes, are extremely industrious and frugal, whose expenses of living are kept much below the average standard, but who still prefer earning something, even though it be little, to idleness, to accumulate constantly. But the Jew adds to all this, the faculty of loaning his accumulations for usury; a power which is conferred by the law. He simply takes advantage of the law, just as other people do when they can. Their accumulations have gone on until it has become an object for the governing classes, or the government [343] itself, to plunder them; and it is an easy matter to stir up the ignorant prejudices of the people against the usurers, and get them expelled from the country, after being despoiled of their hoards. Does any one suppose that the poor people of Russia are benefited by the plunder and expulsion of the Jews? They certainly are not one particle. They are made to play directly into the hand of their real masters, the governing classes of Russia. Even admitting all that any one can allege of the Jews as to their extortionate practices, the fact remains that the only thing which makes those practices possible is the laws of property. It is the most inhuman barbarity to visit the popular indignation upon those who have only taken advantage of what the law permitted them to do. It is precisely what I should do, if I were to arouse the popular phrensy against the wealthy monopolists of our own country to plunder them, and then expel them empty handed. The Jews were not to blame, nor are our monopolists to blame, for doing what the law places within their power to do. It is our ignorance that permits the law. The law is the only effective means of oppression; and the only way to destroy oppression is to destroy the law.

The same principles are applicable to all the disputes between different races in this, or in any other age. Without government to erect a supremacy of one over the other, or to stir up the passions of one against the other, there could no disagreement arise between them as races. If individuals differed, it would remain an individual matter, not involving others in the least; because the personal interests of other individuals would so strongly be on the side of peace that it would be impossible to dragoon them into a dispute not their own.

The Indians and the whites could not possibly get into war one with the other if there were no domination of one over the other by law. There is [344] certainly room enough for all; and there is not the slightest occasion for either to feel the least jealousy or bitterness against the other. The only reason which makes the world seem crowded, and why it is crowded in places, is that the laws of property keep most of it idle, while a small part of it is crowded. Destroy the law, and throw open the resources of the world to the people of the world, and race disputes will be no more likely to arise, than disputes between people who have black eyes, with those having blue eyes.

All this involves no question of enforced association of one race with another. That will take care of itself. Each individual, white, black, or yellow, will consult his own tastes and inclinations in selecting associates. And when he has selected them no other individual has any right to interfere, and could not interfere effectively in the absence of law. Liberty is peace, plenty, security, and fraternity between individuals and peoples, and between nations and races; while the law is slavery, discord, poverty, strife and war between them all.

No comments: