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Albion Tourgée on African American enfranchisement as a means to degrade the South in An Appeal to Caesar, 1884

Title

Albion Tourgée on African American enfranchisement as a means to degrade the South in An Appeal to Caesar, 1884

Description

In this excerpt from Tourgee's An Appeal to Caesar he addresses the theme of African American enfranchisement being a means to downgrade the South in his fictional novel. Essentially, many white southerners argued any Northern action which helped advanced African Americans was a direct blow to the South. This feeling was fueled by a southern idea that
somehow, though officially emancipation had been granted to slaves in Confederate states, white southerners still saw themselves as rightful masters of African Americans. They still believed they were superior enough that it was their right to own slaves. Though in a legal sense this had been completely discounted, it was a feeling that would die hard in the South. As a result of their feeling that slaves still belonged to masters, any act which would allow for the advancement of the slave was indeed an attempt to maim the work of the master.

Creator

Albion Tourgée

Source

Tourgée, Albion. An Appeal to Caesar. New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert, 1884.

Date

1884

Original Format

Book

Text

To the Southern white man, anything that looked toward the elevation of the negro beyond the mere fact of his liberty, — which as a rule he was willing to concede, — any other civil or political right which it was proposed to confer upon the recent slave, seemed a direct assault upon the master himself. Why the fact of liberty should give to the colored man the right to testify against the white man in courts of justice, he was utterly unable to conceive. Why it should change the rules of law which had been enforced, why it should modify the presumptions which had borne so hardly upon the colored man during the period of slavery, why it should give him the right to enter the jury-box, to hold the ballot, to pass from place to place without the permission of his employer, or to exercise any privilege which had not been granted during the period of slavery to the free colored man of the South, the Southern white man could not understand. Because he was unable to comprehend this necessity or to see any reason or justice therein, all of these measures seemed to him direct affronts intended only to humiliate and degrade a defeated foe. He never once imagined that in this matter the North or the Republican Party was animated by any feeling of justice or impelled by any logical necessity. He regarded the Republican Party as founded not on any feeling of right or upon any humane impulse, but as animated solely by a sentiment of hatred for the white people of the South. He believed that the war had been waged entirely for the purpose of depriving him of his right, and that all those measures which were adopted at its close were designed merely as punishments to him for having attempted to resist aggression and tyranny. Perhaps no people were ever animated by a more universal sense of injustice and oppression than the people of the South ; high and low, rich and poor, almost all of the white people of the South were possessed of this idea. It was, of course, strengthened by every act of legislation in favor of the colored man, From their standpoint only one of two motives could inspire such legislation : either the people of the North had an especial and peculiar fondness for the colored people as a race, or they indulged in a bitter and relentless hatred for the white people of the South. They could conceive of but two reasons why the North should be opposed to slavery or why the slaves should be made free : the one was that the people of the North were, so to speak, in love with the negro, and the other that they were full of hateful envy at the prosperity and ease which the South enjoyed. To these sentiments acting conjointly upon the Northern man they attributed the freedom of the slave.

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Citation

Albion Tourgée, Albion Tourgée on African American enfranchisement as a means to degrade the South in An Appeal to Caesar, 1884, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 28, 2017, https://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/578.