ePub 版

guarantee and nothing is left to control him but a sense of the obligation of the contract. The force of this remedy depends upon the degree of conscientiousness and intelligence attained by the bulk of a people. It is well known that one of the latest and most important fruits of civilization is a perception of the obligations of contracts. Even in cultivated nations, the law must be sharpened at all points to meet the efforts to escape from a contract which has become onerous; and nothing short of a high sense of commercial honor and integrity will secure its strict performance. It would be vain under any circumstances to count upon such performance from an ignorant and ungoverned population. But when that population is, from constitution or habit, peculiarly subject to the vices of an inferior race, nothing short of years of education and training can bring about that state of moral rectitude and habitual and self-constraint which would secure the regular performance of contracts. In the present case to these general causes must be added the natural indolence of the African race, and the belief now universal among them, that they are released from any obligation to labor. Under these circumstances the employer would have so little inducements to risk his capital in the hands of the laborer, or to advance money for food and working animals in cultivating a crop which when reaped would be at the mercy of the laborers, that he will certainly endeavor to make other arrangements. The effect will be the abandonment of the negro to his indolent habits and the probable relapse of large portions of the country into its original forest condition. The two races, instead of exchanging mutual good offices, will inflict mutual evil on each other; and the final result must be the destruction or the removal of the inferior race.

The appropriate remedy for these evils evidently points to the necessity of training the inferior race; and we are naturally lead to look to the means which would be employed by our own race for the same purpose. The African is virtually in the condition of the youth, whose inexperience and want of skill unfit him for the privileges of manhood. He is subjected to the guidance and control of one better informed. He is bound as an apprentice to be trained and directed; and is under restraint until he is capable of discharging the duties of manhood.

Such, it seems to me, is the proper instrumentality which should now be applied to the African race. The vast body are now substantially in a state of minority, and are incapable of assuming the position of proper self-regulation. They have all their lives been subject to the control and direction of another, and at present are wholly incapable of self-government. Alongside of them are their former masters, fully capable of guiding and instructing them, needing their labor, and not yet alienated from them in feeling. The great point to be attained is the generous application by the one of his superior skill and resources,

and their kindly reception by the other. This can be effected only by some relation of acknowledged dependence. Let the untrained and incapable African be placed under indentures of apprenticeship to his former master under such regulations as will secure both parties from wrong, and whenever the apprentice shall have obtained the habits and knowledge requisite for discharging the duties of a citizen, let him then be advanced from youth to manhood, and be placed in the exercise of a citizen's rights and the enjoyment of the privileges attending such a change. I have no means of procuring here a copy of the laws passed by the British Parliament on this subject for the West India Colonies. They are founded on this idea of apprenticeship. Such an adjustment of the relations of the two races would overcome many difficulties, and would enable the emancipation experiment to be made under the most favorable circumstances. The experience of the British Colonies would afford valuable means for improving the original plans; and, no doubt, the practical common sense of our people can, by amending their errors, devise the best possible solution of the problem, and afford the largest amount of good to the African race.

The only question which would remain would be as to the government which should enact and administer the laws. Unquestionably the jurisdiction under the Constitution of the United States belongs to the States. This fact will most probably disincline the Congress to an early recognition of the Southern States upon their original footing under the Constitution, from the apprehension of harsh measures towards their former slaves. The difficulty would be obviated if a satisfactory adjustment could be previously made of the footing upon which the two races are to stand. If, by general agreement, an apprentice system could be adopted in some form which would be satisfactory as well as obligatory, it seems to me that most of the evils now existing, or soon to arise, would be remedied, and that a fair start would be made in the proper direction. The details of the plan could be adjusted from the experience of the British Colonies, and if it should result in proving the capacity of the African race to stand upon the same platform with the white man, I doubt not but that the South will receive that conclusion with satisfaction fully equal to that of any other State..

All of which is respectfully submitted, in the hope that laying aside all passion such an adjustment of this most important matter may be reached as in the end will be to the mutual good of both races, and advance, rather than retard, a return of prosperity to our country.

I am not aware that this communication was answered by President Johnson-at least I can find no record of the fact among the papers of Mr. Memminger. The fact of history is that the Republican party, then in power, inflamed in

passion and controlled by a fanatical sentiment, not only prepared articles of impeachment against President Johnson for his alleged treasonable sympathy with the South, but passed the civil-rights bill, conferring all the rights of citi zenship upon the liberated slaves, irrespective of their fitness for the exercise of these functions, or of their "past condition of servitude."

With the cheering presence of his loved family circle, the entertainment of his library, and in correspondence with friends, there was at "Rock Hill" enough to engage the mind of Mr. Memminger and to bring a sweet solace to the disappointed hopes of the patriot. When not engaged with the details of his farm, he could always find about his hearthstone the superior joys of a noble, true life, and in the sympathies of his friends a consolation appreciated by him because of the sincerity of their expressions.

Among his letters received during the fall and winter of 1865, I find the following from General Lee, which gives a beautiful illustration of the character of the great chieftain, while it evidences his personal regard for Mr. Memminger:

Hon. C. G. Memminger:

LEXINGTON, 27th November, 1865.

MY DEAR SIR,-Your letter of the 7th instant only reached me a few days since and has given me sincere pleasure. I have often thought of you in your distant home, with the prayerful hope that a kind Providence would shield you and yours from all evil, and I am truly glad to know that our merciful God has kept you under the shadow of His wing and has returned to you unharmed your brave sons.

Although our losses have been great, we have yet much to be grateful for, and since they have been permitted by Him who ordereth all things for our good, so I am assured it will be proved in this instance if we be but patient and faithful to the end.

Your kind sympathy and continued friendship are very cheering to me, and I trust I may be enabled to fulfill here the same purpose which has governed me in my previous life-to do the good I could to my State and country. If I can accomplish this it matters but little in what position I may be.

I hope your house at Charleston may soon be restored to you and that a new field of usefulness be opened to you and your sons-the resto

ration and advancement of the South. May your efforts be abundantly blessed. I have been unable as yet to have my family with me, but I hope to accomplish it next month, at least so far as Mrs. Lee and some of my daughters are concerned. We are much scattered. My son Custis is one of the professors at the Virginia Military Institute, and is, therefore, near me. He joins me in kindest regards to yourself and family, and I send my special remembrances to Mrs. Memminger and your daughters.

With great respect and undiminished esteem,


I am most truly yours,

R. E. LEE.

It was some time before the devoted city of Charleston could resume her commercial relations with the interior of the United States and with the seaports of the world. Beyond and far in excess of the terrible damage to the city, by a long bombardment and a demoralizing war, was the presence of those in her midst, who, following the successful armies, were seeking in every possible manner to humiliate the proud spirit of her citizens by subjecting them to the government of their former slaves, and who, under the sanction of forces impossible then to resist, were administering a State and municipal government that destroyed every legitimate basis of credit in the extravagance of the most licentious legislation. Mr. Memminger longed to return to his home in the stricken city. His friends there were needing his advice and required his legal experience to direct them in their troubles. To his natural desire to resume the duties of citizenship, which he had to an extent suspended when he entered the Confederate service, was added the necessity of providing a better income than could be secured from the wreck of his former fortune.

He had applied to the Federal authorities for the restoration of his home, which in no sense had been abandoned by him, and for this reason was not subject to the unrighteous sequestration law under which it had been appropriated by the "Freedmen's Bureau." He had also applied for a "par

don," under the provisions of the act of Congress requiring all persons who were the owners of twenty thousand dollars' worth of real and personal property, "and who had engaged in the rebellion against the United States," to receive, upon the approval of the President, a pardon, without which they were incapable of engaging in business transactions or exercising the rights of citizenship.

« 上一頁繼續 »