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Albion Tourgée on African Americans not being granted even the most minimal rights in A Fool's Errand, 1879

Title

Albion Tourgée on African Americans not being granted even the most minimal rights in A Fool's Errand, 1879

Description

In this excerpt from Tourgee's A Fool's Errand he explains the ways in which African Americans were unable to be granted rights. Specifically this addresses how even the most minimal civil liberties were constrained from them. Tourgee specifically describes how African Americans were not allowed to testify in court. He explains this as their method of not recognizing their equality in even the most miniscule ways. Through their testifying in court they would be able to protect their rights to a certain extent so the fact that they were unable to do so shows they weren't interested in this end. Tourgee places this all in the larger scheme of the Black Codes which had been enacted during the time.

Creator

Albion Tourgée

Source

Tourgée, Albion. A Fool's Errand. New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert, 1879.

Date

1879

Original Format

Book

Text

So it must have
been well understood by the wise men who devised this short-sighted plan of
electing a President beyond a peradventure of defeat, that they were giving the
power of the re-organized, subordinate republics, into the hands of a race
unskilled in public affairs, poor to a degree hardly to be matched in the
civilized world, and so ignorant that not five out of a hundred of its voters
could read their own ballots, joined with such Adullamites among the native
whites as might be willing to face a proscription which would shut the house of
God in the face of their families, together with the few men of Northern birth,
resident in that section since the close of the war,--either knaves or fools,
or partaking of the nature of both,--who might elect to become permanent
citizens, and join in the movement.

        Against
them was to be pitted the wealth, the intelligence, the organizing skill, the
pride, and the hate of a people whom it had taken four years to conquer in open
fight when their enemies outnumbered them three to one, who were animated
chiefly by the apprehension of what seemed now about to be forced upon them by
this miscalled measure of "Reconstruction;" to wit, the equality of
the negro race.

        It
was done, too, in the face of the fact that within the preceding twelvemonth
the white people of the South, by their representatives in the various
Legislatures of the Johnsonian period, had absolutely refused to recognize this
equality, even in the slightest matters, by refusing to allow the colored
people to testify in courts of justice
against white men, or to protect
their rights of person and property in any manner from the avarice, lust, or
brutality of their white neighbors. It was done in the very face of the
"Black Codes," which were the first enactments of Provisional
Legislatures, and which would have established a serfdom more complete than
that of the Russian steppes before the ukase of Alexander.

        And
the men who devised this plan called themselves honest and wise statesmen. More
than one of them has since then hugged himself in gratulation under the belief,
that, by his co-operation therein, he had cheaply achieved an immortality of
praise from the liberty-lovers of the earth! After having forced a proud people
to yield what they had for more than two centuries considered a right,--the
right to hold the African race in bondage,--they proceeded to outrage a feeling
as deep and fervent as the zeal of Islam or the exclusiveness of Hindoo caste,
by giving to the ignorant, unskilled, and dependent race--a race who could not
have lived a week without the support or charity of the dominant one--equality
of political right! Not content with this, they went farther, and, by erecting
the rebellious territory into self-regulating and sovereign States, they
abandoned these parties like cocks in a pit, to fight out the question of
predominance without the possibility of national interference. They said to the
colored man, in the language of one of the pseudo-philosophers of that day,
"Root, hog, or die!"

        It
was cheap patriotism, cheap philanthropy, cheap success!

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Citation

Albion Tourgée, Albion Tourgée on African Americans not being granted even the most minimal rights in A Fool's Errand, 1879, Civil War Era NC, accessed September 23, 2017, https://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/585.