The Racial Problem In America
Our nation is beset by many complex and grievous problems; Vietnam, fiscal irresponsibility in government, increasing taxes far beyond the level of being just, the erosion of morals and the revolt of too many of the youth in the home and in the schools. These are among the more prominent and publicized but none of these is as grave as the one to which I am addressing attention. My reason for so appraising the relative gravity of these several critical areas is that these mentioned can, in time, by judicious treatment respond to improvement or solution. The war in Vietnam surely will end sometime, though problematical as to when. A reversal of the welfare philosophy in government could restore solvency to the government, both state and national. I am not optimistic that such will develop. A reversal of the downward trend in morals can be effected, but only by a rebirth of faith in God and His Word. Except as this occurs the nation is doomed.
The conditions existing in the field of race relations have been brought about by a combination of influences and forces that presents no sanguinary prospects of improvement but a constant worsening of these conditions. In my view of the matter, the present trend will issue in a state of affairs that will never yield to any correction. Such a state will mature the economic and moral decay of our nation. There are three forces which have produced the present woeful development. They can be identified as the politicians, the professors, and the preachers in our land. Each has moved in their agitations from distinct bases. The politicians have been, by and large, motivated by the desire for political position, and the attainment and holding of such is dependent on votes. No one has illustrated this unconscionable pragmatism more than former President Johnson. While representing Texas in the Senate he always voted against "civil rights" bills, whereas when seeking and holding national office, and thus dependent on the votes of the black block, he became the most avid advocate of far out legislation designed to secure their suffrage.
The professional class has been moved by a false conception of human origin and impractical application of the principles of democratic processes of government. Aligned with their point of view has been the Warren court. It has been widely publicized that this court in the famous (or infamous) 1954 school integration case was not directed by the law or judicial precedents, but by a philosophical concept of foreign extraction.
Whatever might be said as touching these two sources of influence in producing the present crisis between the races, it is the posture of the third group that concerns me more acutely. Theirs rests on a false conception of the teaching of the word of God, or at least I so conceive it to be. But this isn't a new thing with the "clergy". The rank radicalism of the abolitionists of ante-bellum days was spearheaded by preachers who constantly fanned the flames of passion, culminating in the Civil war. They were not all outside the church of the Lord. For instance, brethren such as Issac Errett were among those who defied the law of the land as treating on the matter of fugitive slaves. He took strong issue with Campbell on this point.
Religionists have premised their contentions, principally, on an affirmation which they conceive to be embodied in the teaching of the scriptures, but which owes its framing to the words of those who lived long this side of the time when the scriptures were given by inspiration. In fact the author of the affirmation, while indisputably one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived (in my estimation the greatest) was apparently a deist, and, further, a slave owner — Thomas Jefferson. Consequently, I would infer from these facts that he didn't predicate his affirmation on the persuasion that such was revealed from God in the scriptures, and, too, that he felt his affirmation had no application and force respecting the relation of races. To affirm that all men are "born free and equal" is to affirm a falsehood. I grant that with proper qualifications this unqualified affirmation might be transmuted into truth; without, however, such qualifications, its falsity should he self-evident to any reflecting person. To seek the establishment of racial equality is to endeavor the accomplishment of the impossible. Equality doesn't exist within any given race, and, further, not within any single family!
In developing and presenting this point of view I wish to reinforce my own reasonings with quotations from the utterances of three prominent men; one a politician, one a statesman, and one a Christian. The politician was a President of this country, the statesman aspired to being President, but is credited with saying he had rather be right than to be President. Based on my acquaintance with the views and attainments of the two, I have no hesitancy in ascribing to the latter a stature far above that of the first, though he never attained the office.
The politician, Abraham Lincoln, has been virtually deified by history, for two reasons: first, he emancipated the slaves, and, second, because he was assassinated. He possessed some elements of character, intellectually and morally, that tended toward greatness. But any man who would say, as Sandburg credited him with, that he would make a graveyard of the South before he would let them successfully secede from the Union, entertained a decidedly deficient regard for the lives of his fellowman which robs him of true greatness. But be it noticed what "the great emancipator" had to say in some of his speeches.
Did he believe the doctrine of the equality of man? In his renowned debates with Douglas, in Illinois he had much to say on this theme. In Springfield, July 17,1858, he said:
"My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration to mean that all men were created equal in all respects. They are not our equal in color; but I suppose that it does mean to declare that all men are equal in some respects. They are equal in their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Certainly the negro is not our equal in color-perhaps not in many other respects; still, in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man, white or black. In pointing out that more has been given you, you cannot be justified in taking away the little which has been given him. All I ask for the negro is that if you do not like him, let him alone. If God gave him but little, that little let him enjoy.
When our government was established, we had the institution of slavery among us. We were in a certain sense compelled to tolerate its existence. It was a sort of necessity. We had gone through our struggle and secured our independence. The framers of the Constitution found the institution of slavery amongst their other institutions at the time. They found that by an effort to eradicate it, they might lose much of what they already had gained. They were obliged to bow to the necessity. They gave power to Congress to abolish the slave trade at the end of twenty years. They also prohibited it in the territories where it did not exist. They did what they could and yielded to the necessity for the rest. I also yield all which follows from that necessity. WHAT I WOULD MOST DESIRE WOULD BE THE SEPARATION OF THE WHITE AND BLACK RACES."(Emp. mine. B.V.)
Was Lincoln a racist? One holding the views herein stated today would be so classified. I sincerely and fully agree with this statement made by him in this speech of more than a hundred years ago. Has the intervening century impeached the validity of his reasoning and position? His opposition to slavery did not logically make him a believer in racial equality, nor does it anyone else, then or now. A state in society where slavery exists or does not exist does not involve necessarily the issue of racial equality. The state of slavery of the children of Israel in Egypt did not establish their racial inferiority. Slavery being abolished in this nation did not affect basically the question of racial equality or inequality. This rests on other and antecedent factors. But Lincoln, while desiring the abolition of slavery, did not contemplate the integration of the two races. Note his desire — "I most desire" — the separation of the white and black races. If he could, and can, be so revered by posterity holding such a desire, why is it esteemed today to be anti-American, and anti-Christian to entertain the same desire?
I believe every person, of whatever race they belong, should be entitled to put into his mouth the bread his hands have earned. But I do not believe any man, white or black, has the right to put into his mouth the bread I have earned while refusing to employ his own hands to earn his own bread. That is what exists today in our welfare state, with multitudes of blacks living in idleness of the proceeds of the labor of others, and enjoying a premium for producing multitudes of children of illegitimate birth. The productive sector of citizens are being penalized for rearing children within the marriage institution by an inadequate exemption of taxation, whereas they are being supported from those taxes in having hordes of children out of wedlock!
On the matter of equality, let's hear more from Lincoln. When he debated with Douglas in "Egypt" — southern Illinois — he had this to say at Charleston:
"While I was at the hotel today an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races, — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say on this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen to my knowledge a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men."(Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Charleston, Illinois, Sept. 18, 1858)
At Galesburg, Illinois Lincoln said, in reply to Douglas:
"But the Judge will have it that if we do not confess that there is a sort of inequality between the white and black races, which justifies us in making them slaves, we must, then, insist that there is a degree of equality that requires us to make them our wives. Now I have all the while taken a broad distinction in regard to that matter; and that is all there is in these different speeches which he arrays here, and the entire reading of either of the speeches will show that that distinction was made. Perhaps by taking two parts of the same speech, he could have got up as much of a conflict as the one he has found. I have all the while maintained, that in so far as it should be insisted that there was an equality between the white and black races that should produce a perfect social and political equality, it was an impossibility. This has been in my printed speeches, and with it I have said, that in their right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as proclaimed in that old Declaration, the inferior races are our equals."
These should be sufficient to establish that Lincoln was a believer in the social and political inferiority of the negro race, and in the segregation of the two races. They have been given the right to vote, but they should, with members of the white race, be subject to certain qualifications. No person whose mental powers and educational deficiencies are such as to render them incapable of voting intelligently and with independent powers of choice should be allowed to vote. Otherwise block voting is the practice. It now is a widespread condition which enabled one man to be elected President four times by appealing to such groups as largely are controlled in their voting by their respective leaders.
The second one, the statesman, to whom I invite attention was a distinguished U.N. States Senator from Kentucky. He arose from a childhood of poverty with no educational advantages to become one of the greatest, if not the greatest, member, of this august body of legislators. No man has ever served his country in a greater variety of capacities or for a longer period of time than Henry Clay. Speaker of the lower House of Congress, Senator, Secretary of State, and as well as representing his country abroad. He was early identified with the efforts to effect the gradual emancipation of slaves through a system of compensation to the owners and the colonization in other lands of those emancipated. Through the years before the rise of the Republican party in 1854, he as a member of the Whig party sought to allay the rising passions of the people on the slavery question and secure the continued union of the states. A biographer, Sargent, says of him:
"Mr. Clay alluded to the fact that about thirty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Finney of New Jersey, and others with him, met in that hall, and consulted and agreed upon the great principles of the foundation of the society. Of that number Mr. Clay was one. At first they did not intend to do more than to establish a colony on the coast of Africa, to which the free people of color in the United States might voluntarily and with their own free consent without the least restraint, coercion, or compulsion, proceed and enjoy untrammeled those social and political privileges which under the circumstances of the case they could not enjoy here. The founder saw, what is now manifest to the country, that the people of color and the white race could not possibly live together on terms of equality. They did not stop to inquire whether this state of things was right or wrong. They took the fact of impossibility for these two races to live together in equal social conditions, and proceeded to operate on that fact, without regard to the question whether the fact arose from an unworthy prejudice, that should be expelled from our breasts, or whether it was an instinct for our guidance."
This is a statement by Sargent in connection with a speech delivered by Clay in January 1848 at a meeting of the American Colonization Society in the hall of the house of representatives. In this speech Clay said:
"Were they to be transported from the United States to Africa, would not their condition be physically, morally, socially, and politically better and happier than anything which they could attain to or hope for here? It is vain to attempt to eradicate that which keeps asunder these two classes. It is vain for the office of philosophy or humanity to attempt what is so utterly impracticable as joining together those whom God himself, by the difference of color and various other distinctions, perhaps, has declared ought to be separate.".
Over a span then of thirty or more years Clay was identified with efforts to remove members of the negro race from our shores to colonies in Africa. As noted, he did not raise the issue of the right or wrong morally in the state of affairs then obtaining, but rather as the practical minded statesman, sought to alleviate and contribute to the ultimate solution of the most vexing and tragic problem which has ever beset America. On the subject of colonization Lincoln has voiced his favor, but with the increasing state of feeling engendered by the radical abolitionists of the Northeastern part of the country, this solution came too late, it appears. On the point of slavery itself Lincoln placed his opposition on the avowed principle of morality, believing it to be morally wrong. His sentiments thus increasingly led him to become more and more acceptable with the leaders of the abolition movement. It was this projection of the issue of slavery on the moral and religious base which led another one to break his long silence and write rather extensively on the subject. He wrote in a measure as a statesman, not at all as a politician, but preeminently as a Christian. While regarding the views of Lincoln and Clay as worthy of serious and weighty significance, they recede to the shadows when the views of one of the stature of Campbell are brought to the light. Neither Clay or Lincoln was a Christian. Campbell was in fact as well as in profession. As a scholar he completely overshadowed both, and especially when the knowledge of the scriptures defines the area of scholarship.
(To be concluded next week.)
— Rt. 3, Longview, Texas