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The Old or the New Faith. Which?

The Old or the New Faith.  Which? 

(A brief review of the present political situation)

Charles Winslow Hall

Curator’s Note: This content is presented as an example of the historical political environment of the year 1900 and is not an endorsement from the library.  These statements are the opinions of the author and may contain statements or descriptions which are considered culturally sensitive today. Please use your discretion before reading its content.

The colored voter must make at the coming election the most important decision of his whole political experience, and one which however solved must of necessity seem to him at best a choice of evils.  The Republican party of 1890 overthrew that unholy alliance between the slave power of the South and the greedy commercialism and political self-seeking of its Northern allies;  and later, in the Civil War, directed the military, naval and political action which destroyed slavery, conferred universal suffrage upon the enfranchised, and for a season protected them and the loyal whites of the South against their enemies.  Its record during the years of its superiority, as the liberator and educator of the Afro-American, is one which will shine resplendent through the ages as an example of unswerving and courageous devotion to liberty and humanity.

How that lofty and noble policy was abandoned at the bidding of the political intriguers and selfish financiers and commercialists who conspired to control a party thus endeared to the masses of the people, it is hardly necessary to relate.  All men know, or should know, how the loyal blacks, and for that matter the loyal whites, of the South, were abandoned to their foes, to serve the ambition of this or that candidate for high office.  Hundreds of murders and thousands of minor outrages perpetrated by the Ku-Klux and their nameless imitators, were followed by myriads of injustice, public and private; contrary to the law of the land, defiant of federal, state, or municipal authority, and yet ignored, concealed and condoned, that Republican traders and bankers might be free to make money, and Northern politicians control the government, and acquire wealth and prestige.

Since that shameful surrender and miscarriage of justice the Republican party has never atoned for its treachery, or shown any disposition to effectually vindicate its great amendments to the Federal Constitution, or adequately protect or avenge its Afro-American allies who have suffered or fallen in its service.

This lamentable sacrifice of its ancient renown and benign prestige has been made complete by its utter surrender of principle and action to the supposed necessities of modern finance and the arrogant demands of great industrial interests and conspiracies.  As the people of Israel, under the very shadow of Sinai forgot the miracles of Moses and the wrath and merciless of the living God, to set up a golden calf, so the great Republican party turned its back on its glorious record as the champion of universal liberty and savior of the republic, and subordinate all other considerations to the supposed needs of an utterly selfish and largely destructive struggle for gain and place.  Today its real strength is not the love and confidence of the masses, or the admiration and devotion of the educated and professional classes.  It is mainly kept in power by party organizations and discipline, profuse expenditure, a subsidized press, the personal influence of myriads of office-holders, and a system of financial and commercial terrorism, which confronts every honest opponent with a persecution which is utterly foreign to the spirit of a republic.

In the last twenty years it has gradually practically endorsed these articles of political faith:  First.- The American people cannot be trusted to decide by popular vote such measures as are usually settled in the state and national legislatures, by swapping votes of confirmation and appropriation, or more or less ingenious and direct bribery.  Second.- A great bonded debt, giving a safe revenue to those who are too rich and cultured to labor, is the only safe foundation for a natural banking system and currency, which, while incidentally giving double profits to the banker, shall secure and increase the general prosperity by making it impossible for the masses to borrow money.  Third.- That all men not essentially and completely republican in politics, are from that very fact mentally and morally inferior, and in general “little better than the wicked”; and that a good Republican is fully justified in refusing to employ, or in discharging from his employment, any fellow-citizen who, after being sully admonished, persists in such political heresy.

Of late such advanced thinkers as Charles Dudley Warner and hosts of favorable critics have declared that the Negro is innately inferior to the white man, and so handicapped by centuries of oppression and degradation as to be unfitted to receive equal privileges, which they must be made to earn and secure by generations of struggle and education.  A Large number of sages like Senators Hanna of Ohio, Beveridge of Indiana, Nelson and Davis of Minnesota, Lodge and Hoar of Massachusetts, and their like, further practically declare that every dark-skinned race is unfitted to exercise self-government; and therefore when once placed by chance of war, diplomatic arrangement, or the mysterious decrees of Divine Providence, under the flag of the United States, must be so controlled, taxed, governed, educated, privileged and otherwise dealt with, ass shall seem best to the said virtuous and sapient senators and their associates, and most profitable for tier special friends and constituents.  Co-related to this remarkable article of political faith is a general endowment of an extension of territory, military and naval forces, diplomatic corps, and a semi-political semi-commercial secret service, which shall make the United States a colonizing, conquering world-power like Great Britain, to be like her impoverished by immense expenditures, and feared or hated by every other nation.  Lastly.- The leaders and directors of Republican policy teach that the concentration of transportation, manufacturing, financial and commercial enterprises into the hands of a few concerns is best adapted to make men in the mass intelligent, enterprising, and truly free and happy; and to discourage those evils which in the past have scourged mankind, because of the extortion, injustice, selfishness, arrogance, and cruelty of little great men who have hitherto partially controlled the wealth and industries of a people.

It is hard to see what hope of personal attainment and real independence is left to men of “inferior races” who now or hereafter may live under the dominance of the United States, or indeed to the average white citizen, when these tendencies shall have done their perfect work.

Daily the importance of the citizen as an individual factor in the life of this age diminishes, and with it his standard of right and sense of duty as a citizen and a man.  “If these things are done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”  If the Anglo-Saxon is to lose his self-reliant spirit and hope of better things, what chance is there for the Negro to say:  “Am I not a man, and a brother?”  I am utterly at a loss to understand how any man who hopes to rise through honest means to a manly independence and deserved prosperity, can seek it through the guidance and dominance of  the Republican party.

As Lincoln said in 1856:  “Little by little, bit steadily as a man’s march to the grave, we have been giving up the old for the new faith,  Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men were created equal, but from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a “sacred right of self-government.”  These principles cannot stand together.  They are opposite as God and mammon.  Then it was the Democratic party which, captured by the greedy and selfish of that day, had bade adieu to the traditions of a noble and generous past.  Today the Republican party in its turn has been captured and made the mouthpiece and handmaid of human arrogance and greed.

The Democratic party embraces a great many leaders whose attitude toward the Negro race is antagonistic, and some who are utterly cruel, wicked and indefensible.  Most of these, however, are in the Southern States, where ancient antagonisms and prejudices still bias the minds of many otherwise excellent men.  There are, however, many men in the Southern Democracy who honestly desire and seek a just and happy issue out of the present difficulties.  In the North the Democratic party has been practically reorganized in its spirit and leadership.  The old war-horses have largely passed away, or have severed their relations with a party now largely controlled by men who were once Republicans, but have left the party.  These men are carrying on a campaign of education in which they attempt to secure votes, not by appeals to sectional religions, denominational or partisan prejudices, but by a reasonable presentation of the facts which should be considered by every voter who can honestly desires to vote for the best interests of the American people.  Their fearlessness and plain-speaking; the ability and courage with which they have met the ridicule, abuse and misrepresentation of a subsidized and partisan press; their sublime trust in the conscience and honesty of the American people, and the final victory of justice and right, are in strange contrast to the utterances of the president and some of his associates, whose mental and moral somersaults have secured a national notoriety of late.  Their splendid fight for justice and truth recalls the early days of the Anti-Slavery and “Free Soil” struggles, when the founders of the present Republican party exhibited a like devotion and conscientious conviction and received the same obloquy as their political successors deal out to all who in the least degree differ from the party creed, or fail to support party men and measures.  The large proportion of the old leaders of the Democratic party have either become Republicans or attempted to conceal their lack of sympathy with the reversion to the original and ancient Democratic principles, by the ostensible organization of another Democratic party.  In this they have failed to secure a following sufficient to do more than to incur at the last election the success of the Republican ticket; in most of the states their defection insured their complete loss of prestige and prominence in municipal and state politics.

The Democratic party now stands for a repudiation of all policies which will enable the United States to hold colonies or dependencies in which the conditions of labor, business and American citizenship are to be settled by special congressional action, and not by laws of universal application to all and every section of the republic.  It cannot welcome conditions which must bring the Union into alliance or conflict with European nations, “whose ways are not our ways,”  “whose thoughts are not our thoughts,” and whose ancient prejudices and policies render it impossible for us to work in unison together.

The Democratic party of today wants a currency system which is honest and impartial, whose laws do not enable the money loaner and banker to burden the community with responsibilities which they themselves do not and will not assume.  It chooses to support a candidate for the presidency who, whether right or wrong, stands by his guns, and is prepared to forfeit his candidacy rather than disguise his convictions.  In many states it has enrolled among its leaders colored gentlemen who have proved the insincerity of Republican protestations and pledges, and prefer to labor with the new Democracy in the coming campaign.  The Democratic party of the United States is anxious to treat justly – and as the armies of fleets of France treated our fathers in the Revolution- the inhabitants of Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippines.  They have opposed to them every large monopoly, financial, commercial and education, in the country; and a thousand greedy parasites which grow fat at the cost of the people of the United States, fear investigation and punishment.

It is not my province to tell the men of another race of to vote, nor has it been my purpose to diminish the ancient claims of the Republican party upon the Afro-American, or to ignore the past errors or present conditions of the Democratic party; but I feel certain that the Republican party as at present directed and controlled has no more right to its name and the record of its illustrious predecessors than would a convocation headed by the Czar of Russia and the Emperors of Austria and Prussia.  From it a people struggling for freedom; its own poorer and more dependent citizens, and the African whom it has already abandoned and betrayed, have nothing to hope but a chance to live on such terms as may seem most beneficial to the tremendous monopolies which it has brought into existence.

The discontent in our own cities; the costly and endless struggle for conquest in the Philippines; and the Chinese situation, which in all human probability will eventually lead to the most gigantic war of modern times, warn us that to mind their own business is a sufficient task for even the gigantic energies of the American people.

In the long and costly struggle which confronts the nation there is no chance for the settlement of those social, political and industrial matters which have so long demanded solution; nor can there be an acquisition of territory into which a new Moses may lead an Israel out of bondage.

We May send myriads to fertilize Asiatic islands and deserts with their bones, and expend millions to extend the operations of a few trust and financiers; but the people, white and black, will do the fighting and dying, pay the taxes and profits of politician and monopolist, and see themselves and their children ever becoming more dependent upon a greedy and arrogant plutocracy.