The Virginia Negro and Negro Suffrage A Northern Mans Opinion
January 5, 1869
Claims that "negros" in Virginia are having a tougher time than in other states. More of them are idle, and complaining about unfair wages. Takes a racist approach, claiming that if they had a mule, "it would surely die" since they are unable to take care of it. Makes the claim that they are unfit to be given the ability to have a say in the government.
The Virginia Negro and Negro Suffrage- A Northern Man's OpinionThe editor of the Lancaster (Pa.) Intelligencer has recently made a trip through some of the southern States . He was not favorably impressed by a close inspection of the Virginia negro, for he says : The negroes in Virginia seem to be more discontented than those of the other States that we have been in - at least, we saw more of them idle, and more complaining of rates of wages and want of work. This may hate been owing to the season of the year during which our visit was made- The rate of wages ranges from six to ten dollars per month in all the southern States. To this is added a ration of three and a half pounds of bacon and a peck of meal per week, a hut to live in being also furnished them ; and very little work do they do for the money. We presume northern farmers, who would go into the fields themselves and may to the negroes " come," might get more work out of them ; but they are constitutionally opposed to labor, and require constant driving. We were greatly astonished at the immense profundity of their ignorance. They do not really seem to have an idea above an oyster, and are, many of them, in intellectual calibre, but little above the beasts of the field. They are utterly improvident and unable to take care of themselves. The rags in which they are clothed would astonish the most accomplished beggar in Italy. They are expecting the Government to do great things for them, and have got an idea into their heads that from this source they are each to get forty acres of land, a mule, and farming implements, and provisions enough to last them until they can make a crop off of their land. They conceive that the Government owes them this. If they get that mule it would not live three months, but would die of starvation ; half of the negroes would be even too careless to lead their animals to water. The planters can trust very few of them with their stock, and they require constant watching.' It seems incredible that any human being would let his dumb beast die for want of water, yet we are assured that it is often done by negroes who attain the ownership of a horse. John Randolph of Roanoke tried this experiment of fitting out freedmen with farms. By his will he freed his slaves and directed that they should be settled in a colony in Ohio - each to be provided with a house and lot of ground and farming implements. They were, moreover, to be under the care of a superintending white man until they got fairly started in their new career. It was all done as directed, and to-day, after the lapse of twenty or thirty years, not one of those freedmen owns the lot that was given to him. What a mockery it is to give these creatures, with their present degree of education and Intelligence, a voice in the administration of our Government. Negro suffrage South, fortunately, is so great a farce that it will not long continue to be a reality. It may exist in name for a few years, but even then the negro vote will be but the echo of that of the white man. The freedman always agrees to what a white man says ; in all our conversation with him we were never able to meet anything but the most ready assent to every proposition which we advanced, no matter of how contradictory or absurd a character.
About this article
“The Virginia Negro and Negro Suffrage A Northern Mans Opinion,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed August 20, 2018, http://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1233.