The University of Oklahoma Great Depression & 1920s History Essay


Capitalism, Leisure, and Intolerance in the 1920sThe 1920s saw a significant expansion in personal freedoms for some segments of the U.S. population. At the same time, the decade witnessed widespread retrenchment, oppression, and intolerance. Which force –freedom or intolerance –was more central to the history of the United States in the 1920s?By 11:59 pm on Wednesday, write a 200-word discussion board post in response to the prompt, as well as a substantive response to one (1) of your peer’s posts consisting of 50 words minimum. In your response, you must quote or make reference to at least one of the documents assigned for reading in this module. You may also use material addressed in the lecture videos.(Required reading: Voices of FreedomDocument 118 – Manuel Gamio on a Mexican-Amerian Family and American Freedom (c. 1926)Document 133 – John A. Fitch on the Great Steel Strike (1919)Document 136 – The Fight for Civil Liberties (1921)Optional reading: Give Me LibertyChapter 20)

The Great Depression and the New DealIs the New Deal best understood as radical, moderate, or conservative? In answering this question, be sure to define your terminology. As usual, you should refer to at least one assigned document.By 11:59 pm on Friday, write a 200-word discussion board post in response to the prompt, as well as a substantive response to one (1) of your peer’s posts consisting of 50 words minimum. In your response, you must quote or make reference to at least one of the documents assigned for reading in this module. You may also use material addressed in the lecture videos.
Required reading: Voices of FreedomDocument 142 – Letter to Francis Perkins (1937)Document 143 – John Steinbeck, “The Harvest Gypsies” (1936)Document 144 – John L. Lewis on Labor’s Great Upheaval (1937)Document 145 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Great Security for the Average Man” (1934)Optional reading: Give Me LibertyChapter 21

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A Documentary History
Fifth Edition
Vo l u m e 2
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A Documentary History
Fifth Edition

Vo l u m e 2
W. W. N O R T O N & C O M PA N Y . N E W Y O R K . L O N D O N
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W. W. Norton & Company has been independent since its founding in 1923, when
William Warder Norton and Mary D. Herter Norton first published lectures delivered
at the People’s Institute, the adult education division of New York City’s Cooper
Union. The firm soon expanded its program beyond the Institute, publishing books
by celebrated academics from America and abroad. By midcentury, the two major pillars of Norton’s publishing program—trade books and college texts—were firmly
established. In the 1950s, the Norton family transferred control of the company to its
employees, and today—with a staff of four hundred and a comparable number of
trade, college, and professional titles published each year—W. W. Norton & Company
stands as the largest and oldest publishing house owned wholly by its employees.
Copyright © 2017, 2014, 2011, 2008, 2005 by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Manufacturing by Maple Press
Book design by Antonina Krass
Composition by Westchester Book Group
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Foner, Eric, 1943– editor.
Title: Voices of freedom: a documentary history / edited by Eric Foner.
Description: Fifth edition. | New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016. |
Includes bibliographical references.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016045203 | ISBN 9780393614497 (pbk., v. 1) |
ISBN 9780393614503 (pbk., v. 2)
Subjects: LCSH: United States—History—Sources. | United States—Politics
and government—Sources.
Classification: LCC E173 .V645 2016 | DDC 973—dc23 LC record available at
ISBN: 978-0-393-61450-3 (pbk.)
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
wwnorton .com
W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 15 Carlisle Street, London W1D 3BS
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
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ERIC FONER is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia
University, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and
scholarship, he focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery,
and nineteenth- century America. Professor Foner’s publications
include Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican
Party Before the Civil War; Tom Paine and Revolutionary America; Politics
and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War; Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy; Reconstruction: American’s Unfinished Revolution,
1863–1877; Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders
During Reconstruction; The Story of American Freedom; Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World; and Forever Free: The
Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. His history of Reconstruction won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for History, the Bancroft
Prize, and the Parkman Prize. He served as president of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Society of American Historians. His most recent trade
publications include The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American
Slavery, which won numerous awards including the Lincoln Prize,
the Bancroft Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize, and Gateway to Freedom:
The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.
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“What Is Freedom?”: Reconstruction, 1865– 1877
95. Petition of Black Residents of Nashville (1865)
96. Petition of Committee on Behalf of the Freedmen to
Andrew Johnson (1865)
97. The Mississippi Black Code (1865)
98. A Sharecropping Contract (1866)
99. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Home Life” (ca. 1875)
100. Frederick Douglass, “The Composite Nation” (1869)
101. Robert B. Elliott on Civil Rights (1874)
America’s Gilded Age, 1870– 1890
102. Jorgen and Otto Jorgensen, Homesteading in Montana (1908)
103. Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth (1889)
104. William Graham Sumner on Social Darwinism (ca. 1880)
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105. A Second Declaration of Independence (1879)
106. Henry George, Progress and Poverty (1879)
107. Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)
108. Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel (1912)
Freedom’s Boundaries, at Home
and Abroad, 1890– 1900
109. The Populist Platform (1892)
110. Booker T. Washington, Address at the Atlanta Cotton
Exposition (1895)
111. W. E. B. Du Bois, A Critique of Booker T. Washington (1903)
112. Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice (ca. 1892)
113. Frances E. Willard, Women and Temperance (1883)
114. Josiah Strong, Our Country (1885)
115. Emilio Aguinaldo on American Imperialism in the
Philippines (1899)
The Progressive Era, 1900– 1916
116. Manuel Gamio on a Mexican-American Family and
American Freedom (ca. 1926)
117. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898)
118. John A. Ryan, A Living Wage (1912)
119. The Industrial Workers of the World and the Free
Speech Fights (1909)
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120. Margaret Sanger on “Free Motherhood,” from Woman
and the New Race (1920)
121. Mary Church Terrell, “What It Means to Be Colored
in the Capital of the United States” (1906)
122. Woodrow Wilson and the New Freedom (1912)
123. R. G. Ashley, Unions and “The Cause of Liberty” (1910)
Safe for Democracy: The United States
and World War I, 1916– 1920
124. Woodrow Wilson, A World “Safe for Democracy” (1917)
125. Randolph Bourne, “War Is the Health of the State” (1918)
126. A Critique of the Versailles Peace Conference (1919)
127. Carrie Chapman Catt, Address to Congress on Women’s
Suffrage (1917)
128. Eugene V. Debs, Speech to the Jury (1918)
129. Rubie Bond, The Great Migration (1917)
130. Marcus Garvey on Africa for the Africans (1921)
131. John A. Fitch on the Great Steel Strike (1919)
From Business Culture to Great Depression:
The Twenties, 1920– 1932
132. André Siegfried on the “New Society,” from the
Atlantic Monthly (1928)
133. The Fight for Civil Liberties (1921)
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134. Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s Last Statement in Court (1927)
135. Congress Debates Immigration (1921)
136. Meyer v. Nebraska and the Meaning of Liberty (1923)
137. Alain Locke, The New Negro (1925)
138. Elsie Hill and Florence Kelley Debate the Equal Rights
Amendment (1922)
The New Deal, 1932– 1940
139. Letter to Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (1937)
140. John Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies (1936)
141. Labor’s Great Upheaval (1937)
142. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Speech to the Democratic
National Convention (1936)
143. Herbert Hoover on the New Deal and Liberty (1936)
144. Norman Cousins, “Will Women Lose Their Jobs?” (1939)
145. Frank H. Hill on the Indian New Deal (1935)
146. W. E. B. Du Bois, “A Negro Nation within a Nation” (1935)
Fighting for the Four Freedoms:
World War II, 1941– 1945
147. Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Four Freedoms (1941)
148. Will Durant, Freedom of Worship (1943)
149. Henry R. Luce, The American Century (1941)
150. Henry A. Wallace on “The Century of the Common Man” (1942)
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151. F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)
152. World War II and Mexican-Americans (1945)
153. African-Americans and the Four Freedoms (1944)
154. Justice Robert A. Jackson, Dissent in Korematsu v.
United States (1944)
The United States and the Cold War, 1945– 1953
155. Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic
of Vietnam (1945)
156. The Truman Doctrine (1947)
157. NSC 68 and the Ideological Cold War (1950)
158. Walter Lippmann, A Critique of Containment (1947)
159. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
160. President’s Commission on Civil Rights,
To Secure These Rights (1947)
161. Joseph R. McCarthy on the Attack (1950)
162. Margaret Chase Smith, Declaration of Conscience (1950)
163. Will Herberg, The American Way of Life (1955)
An Af f luent Society, 1953– 1960
164. Richard M. Nixon, “What Freedom Means to Us” (1959)
165. Daniel L. Schorr, “Reconverting Mexican Americans” (1946)
166. The Southern Manifesto (1956)
167. Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962)
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168. C. Wright Mills on “Cheerful Robots” (1959)
169. Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” (1955)
170. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955)
The Sixties, 1960– 1968
171. John F. Kennedy, Speech on Civil Rights (1963)
172. Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
173. Barry Goldwater on “Extremism in the Defense
of Liberty” (1964)
174. Lyndon B. Johnson, Commencement Address at Howard
University (1965)
175. The Port Huron Statement (1962)
176. Paul Potter on the Antiwar Movement (1965)
177. The National Organization for Women (1966)
178. César Chavez, “Letter from Delano” (1969)
179. The International 1968 (1968)
The Triumph of Conservatism, 1969– 1988
180. Brochure on the Equal Rights Amendment (1970s)
181. Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle (1971)
182. The Sagebrush Rebellion (1979)
183. Jimmy Carter on Human Rights (1977)
184. Jerry Falwell, Listen, America! (1980)
185. Phyllis Schlafly, “The Fraud of the Equal Rights
Amendment” (1972)
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186. James Watt, “Environmentalists: A Threat to the Ecology
of the West” (1978)
187. Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address (1981)
From Triumph to Tragedy, 1989– 2001
188. Pat Buchanan, Speech to the Republican
National Convention (1992)
189. Bill Clinton, Speech on Signing of NAFTA (1993)
190. Declaration for Global Democracy (1999)
191. The Beijing Declaration on Women (1995)
192. Puwat Charukamnoetkanok, “Triple Identity:
My Experience as an Immigrant in America” (1990)
A New Century and New Crises
193. The National Security Strategy of the United States (2002)
194. Robert Byrd on the War in Iraq (2003)
195. Second Inaugural Address of George W. Bush (2005)
196. Archbishop Roger Mahoney, “Called by God to Help” (2006)
197. Anthony Kennedy, Opinion of the Court in
Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)
198. Security, Liberty, and the War on Terror (2008)
199. Barack Obama, Eulogy at Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church (2015)
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Voices of Freedom is a documentary history of American freedom
from the earliest days of European exploration and settlement of
the Western Hemisphere to the present. I have prepared it as a companion volume to Give Me Liberty!, my survey textbook of the history of the United States centered on the theme of freedom. This
fifth edition of Voices of Freedom is organized in chapters that correspond to those in the fifth edition of the textbook. But it can also
stand independently as a documentary introduction to the history
of American freedom. The two volumes include more than twenty
documents not available in the third edition.
No idea is more fundamental to Americans’ sense of themselves
as individuals and as a nation than freedom, or liberty, with which
it is almost always used interchangeably. The Declaration of Independence lists liberty among mankind’s inalienable rights; the
Constitution announces as its purpose to secure liberty’s blessings.
“ Every man in the street, white, black, red or yellow,” wrote the
educator and statesman Ralph Bunche in 1940, “knows that this is
‘the land of the free’ . . . ‘the cradle of liberty.’ ”
The very universality of the idea of freedom, however, can be
misleading. Freedom is not a fixed, timeless category with a single
unchanging definition. Rather, the history of the United States is, in
part, a story of debates, disagreements, and struggles over freedom.
Crises such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Cold
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War have permanently transformed the idea of freedom. So too
have demands by various groups of Americans for greater freedom
as they understood it.
In choosing the documents for Voices of Freedom, I have attempted
to convey the multifaceted history of this compelling and contested
idea. The documents reflect how Americans at dif ferent points in
our history have defined freedom as an overarching idea, or have
understood some of its many dimensions, including political, religious, economic, and personal freedom. For each chapter, I have
tried to select documents that highlight the specific discussions of
freedom that occurred during that time period, and some of the
divergent interpretations of freedom at each point in our history. I
hope that students will gain an appreciation of how the idea of
freedom has expanded over time, and how it has been extended into
more and more areas of Americans’ lives. But at the same time, the
documents suggest how freedom for some Americans has, at various
times in our history, rested on lack of freedom— slavery, indentured servitude, the subordinate position of women—for others.
The documents that follow reflect the kinds of historical developments that have shaped and reshaped the idea of freedom, including
war, economic change, territorial expansion, social protest movements, and international involvement. The selections try to convey
a sense of the rich cast of characters who have contributed to the
history of American freedom. They include presidential proclamations and letters by runaway slaves, famous court cases and obscure
manifestos, ideas dominant in a par ticular era and those of radicals
and dissenters. They range from advertisements in colonial newspapers seeking the return of runaway indentured servants and
slaves to debates in the early twentieth century over the definition of
economic freedom, the controversy over the proposed Equal Rights
Amendment for women, and recent Supreme Court decisions dealing with the balance between liberty and security in war time.
I have been particularly attentive to how battles at the boundaries of freedom—the efforts of racial minorities, women, and
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others to secure greater freedom—have deepened and transformed
the concept and extended it into new realms. In addition, in this
fifth edition I have included a number of new documents that illustrate how the history of the western United States, and more particularly the borderlands area of the Southwest, have affected the
evolution of the idea of freedom. These include the Texas Declaration of Independence of 1836, a reminiscence about homesteading
in the West in the late nineteenth century, a report on the status
of Mexican-Americans in the aftermath of World War II, and an
explanation of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s.
All of the documents in this collection are “primary sources”—
that is, they were written or spoken by men and women enmeshed
in the events of the past, rather than by later historians. They therefore offer students the opportunity to encounter ideas about freedom in the actual words of participants in the drama of American
history. Some of the documents are reproduced in their entirety.
Most are excerpts from longer interviews, articles, or books. In editing the documents, I have tried to remain faithful to the original
purpose of the author, while highlighting the portion of the text
that deals directly with one or another aspect of freedom. In most
cases, I have reproduced the wording of the original texts exactly.
But I have modernized the spelling and punctuation of some early
documents to make them more understandable to the modern
reader. Each document is preceded by a brief introduction that
places it in historical context and is followed by two questions that
highlight key elements of the argument and may help to focus
students’ thinking about the issues raised by the author.
A number of these documents were suggested by students in
a U.S. history class at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania,
taught by Professor David Hsiung. I am very grateful to these students, who responded enthusiastically to an assignment by Professor Hsiung that asked them to locate documents that might be
included in this edition of Voices of Freedom and to justify their
choices with historical arguments. Some of the documents are
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included in the online exhibition, “Preserving American Freedom,”
created by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Taken together, the documents in these volumes suggest the
ways in which American freedom has changed and expanded over
time. But they also remind us that American history is not simply
a narrative of continual progress toward greater and greater freedom.
While freedom can be achieved, it may also be reduced or rescinded.
It can never be taken for granted.
Eric Foner
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A Documentary History
Fifth Edition
Vo l u m e 2
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“What Is Freedom?”:
Reconstruction, 1865– 1877
95. Petition of Black Residents of Nashville
Source: Newspaper clipping enclosed in Col. R. D. Mussey to Capt.
C. P. Brown, January 23, 1865, Letters Received, ser. 925, Department
of the Cumberland, U.S. Army Continental Commands, National Archives.
At the request of military governor Andrew Johnson, Lincoln exempted
Tennessee from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 (although many
slaves in the state gained their freedom by serving in the Union army).
In January 1865, a state convention was held to complete the work of
abolition. A group of free blacks of Nashville sent a petition to the delegates, asking for immediate action to end slavery and granting black
men the right to vote (which free blacks had enjoyed in the state until
1835). The document emphasized their loyalty to the Union, their natural right to freedom, and their willingness to take on the responsibilities
of citizenship. The document offers a revealing snapshot of black consciousness at the dawn of Reconstruction.
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Vo i c e s o f F r e e d o m
To the Union Convention of Tennessee Assembled in the
Capitol at Nashville, January 9th, 1865:
We the undersigned petitioners, American citizens of African
descent, natives and residents of Tennessee, and devoted friends of
the great National cause, do most respectfully ask a patient hearing
of your honorable body in regard to matters deeply affecting the
future condition of our unfortunate and long suffering race.
First of all, however, we would say that words are too weak to tell
how profoundly grateful we are to the Federal Government for the
good work of freedom which it is gradually carrying forward; and for
the Emancipation Proclamation which has set free all the slaves in
some of the rebellious States, as well as many of the slaves in Tennessee.
After two hundred years of bondage and suffering a returning
sense of justice has awakened the great body of the American people to make amends for the unprovoked wrongs committed against
us for over two hundred years.
Your petitioners would ask you to complete the work begun by
the nation at large, and abolish the last vestige of slavery by the
express words of your organic law.
Many masters in Tennessee whose slaves have left them, will certainly make every effort to bring them back to bondage after the
reorganization of the State government, unless slavery be expressly
abolished by the Constitution.
We hold that freedom is the natural right of all men, which they
themselves have no more right to give or barter away, than they
have to sell their honor, their wives, or their children.
We claim to be men belonging to the great human family,
descended from one great God, who is the common Father of all, and
who bestowed on all races and tribes the priceless right of freedom.
Of this right, for no offence of ours, we have long been cruelly
deprived, and the common voice of the wise and good of all countries, has remonstrated against our enslavement, as one of the greatest crimes in all history.
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“What Is Freedom?”
We claim freedom, as our natural right, and ask that in harmony
and co-operation with the nation at large, you should cut up by the
roots the system of slavery, which is not only a wrong to us, but the
source of all the evil which at present afflicts the State. For slavery,
corrupt itself, corrupted nearly all, also, around it, so that it has
influenced nearly all the slave States to rebel against the Federal
Government, in order to set up a government of pirates under which
slavery might be perpetrated.
In the contest between the nation and slavery, our unfortunate
people have sided, by instinct, with the former. We have little fortune to devote to the national cause, for a hard fate has hitherto
forced us to live in poverty, but we do devote to its success, our hopes,
our toils, our whole heart, our sacred honor, and our lives. We will
work, pray, live, and, if need be, die for the Union, as cheerfully as
ever a white patriot died for his country. The color of our skin does
not lesson in the least degree, our love either for God or for the land
of our birth.
We are proud to point your honorable body to the fact, that so far
as our knowledge extends, not a negro traitor has made his appearance since the begining of this wicked rebellion. . . .
Devoted as we are to the principles of justice, of love to all men,
and of equal rights on which our Government is based, and which
make it the hope of the world. We know the burdens of citizenship,
and are ready to bear them. We know the duties of the good citizen,
and are ready to perform them cheerfully, and would ask to be put
in a position in which we can discharge them more effectually. We
do not ask for the privilege of citizenship, wishing to shun the obligations imposed by it.
Near 200,000 of our brethren are to-day performing military duty
in the ranks of the Union army. Thousands of them have already died
in battle, or perished by a cruel martyrdom for the sake of the Union,
and we are ready and willing to sacrifice more. But what higher order
of citizen is there than the soldier? or who has a greater trust confided
to his hands? If we are called on to do military duty against the
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Vo i c e s o f F r e e d o m
rebel armies in the field, why should we be denied the privilege of
voting against rebel citizens at the ballot-box? The latter is as necessary to save the Government as the former. . . .
This is not a Democratic Government if a numerous, law-abiding,
industrious, and useful class of citizens, born and bred on the soil,
are to be treated as aliens and enemies, as an inferior degraded class,
who must have no voice in the Government which they support,
protect and defend, with all their heart, soul, mind, and body, both
in peace and war.
1. Why do the petitioners place so much emphasis on their loyalty to the
Union cause during the war?
2. What understanding of American history and the nation’s future do the
petitioners convey?
96. Petition of Committee on Behalf of the
Freedmen to Andrew Johnson (1865)
Source: Henry Bram et al. to the President of the United States, October 28,
1865, P-27, 1865, Letters Received (series 15), Washington Headquarters,
Freedmen’s Bureau Papers, National Archives.
By June 1865, some 40,000 freedpeople had been settled on “Sherman
land” in South Carolina and Georgia, in accordance with Special Field
Order 15. That summer, however, President Andrew Johnson, who
had succeeded Lincoln, ordered nearly all land in federal hands
returned to its former owners. In October, O. O. Howard, head of the
Freedmen’s Bureau, traveled to the Sea Islands to inform blacks of the
new policy.
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“What Is Freedom?”
Howard was greeted with disbelief and protest. A committee drew up
petitions to Howard and President Johnson. Their petition to the president pointed out that the government had encouraged them to occupy
the land and affi rmed that they were ready to purchase it if given the
opportunity. Johnson rejected the former slaves’ plea. And, throughout
the South, because no land distribution took place, the vast majority
of rural freedpeople remained poor and without property during
Edisto Island S.C. Oct 28th, 1865.
To the President of these United States. We the freedmen of Edisto
Island South Carolina have learned From you through Major General
O O Howard commissioner of the Freedmans Bureau. with deep sorrow and Painful hearts of the possibility of government restoring
These lands to the former owners. We are well aware Of the many
perplexing and trying questions that burden Your mind, and do therefore pray to god (the preserver of all and who has through our Late and
beloved President (Lincoln) proclamation and the war made Us A free
people) that he may guide you in making Your decisions, and give you
that wisdom that Cometh from above to settle these great and Important Questions for the best interests of the country and the Colored
race: Here is where secession was born and Nurtured Here is were we
have toiled nearly all Our lives as slaves and were treated like dumb
Driven cattle, This is our home, we have made These lands what they
are. we were the only true and Loyal people that were found in posession of these Lands. we have been always ready to strike for Liberty and
humanity yea to fight if needs be To preserve this glorious union.
Shall not we who Are freedman and have been always true to this
Union have the same rights as are enjoyed by Others? Have we broken
any Law of these United States? Have we forfieted our rights of property
In Land?—If not then! are not our rights as A free people and good citizens of these United States To be considered before the rights of those
who were Found in rebellion against this good and just Government
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Vo i c e s o f F r e e d o m
(and now being conquered) come (as they Seem) with penitent hearts
and beg forgiveness For past offences and also ask if their lands Cannot
be restored to them are these rebellious Spirits to be reinstated in their
possessions And we who have been abused and oppressed For many long
years not to be allowed the Privilege of purchasing land But be subject To the will of these large Land owners? God forbid, Land monopoly is injurious to the advancement of the course of freedom, and if
Government Does not make some provision by which we as Freedmen can obtain A Homestead, we have Not bettered our condition.
We have been encouraged by Government to take Up these lands
in small tracts, receiving Certificates of the same—we have thus far
Taken Sixteen thousand (16000) acres of Land here on This Island.
We are ready to pay for this land When Government calls for it. and
now after What has been done will the good and just government
take from us all this right and make us Subject to the will of those
who have cheated and Oppressed us for many years God Forbid!
We the freedmen of this Island and of the State of South Carolina—
Do therefore petition to you as the President of these United States,
that some provisions be made by which Every colored man can purchase land. and Hold it as his own. We wish to have A home if It be
but A few acres. without some provision is Made our future is sad to
look upon. yess our Situation is dangerous. we therefore look to you
In this trying hour as A true friend of the poor and Neglected race. for
protection and Equal Rights. with the privilege of purchasing A
Homestead—A Homestead right here in the Heart of South Carolina.
We pray that God will direct your heart in Making such provision
for us as freedmen which Will tend to united these states together
stronger Than ever before—May God bless you in the Administration of your duties as the President Of these United States is the
humble prayer Of us all.—
In behalf of the Freedmen
Henry Bram
Ishmael Moultrie.
yates. Sampson
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1. How important is it for the petitioners to obtain land on Edisto Island,
as opposed to elsewhere in the country?
2. What do they think is the relationship between owning land and freedom?
97. The Mississippi Black Code (1865)
Source: Walter L. Fleming, ed., Documentary History of Reconstruction
(Cleveland, 1906–1907), Vol. 1, pp. 281–90.
During 1865, Andrew Johnson put into effect his own plan of Reconstruction, establishing procedures whereby new governments, elected by white
voters only, would be created in the South. Among the first laws passed by
the new governments were the Black Codes, which attempted to regulate
the lives of the former slaves. These laws granted the freedpeople certain
rights, such as legalized marriage, ownership of property, and limited
access to the courts. But they denied them the right to testify in court
in cases that only involved whites, serve on juries or in state militias, or
to vote. And in response to planters’ demands that the freedpeople be
required to work on the plantations, the Black Codes declared that those
who failed to sign yearly labor contracts could be arrested and hired out to
white landowners. The Black Codes indicated how the white South would
regulate black freedom if given a free hand by the federal government. But
they so completely violated free labor principles that they discredited
Johnson’s Reconstruction policy among northern Republicans.
Vagrant Law
Sec. 2. . . . All freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes in this State, over
the age of eighteen years, found on the second Monday in January,
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1866, or thereafter, with no lawful employment or business, or found
unlawfully assembling themselves together, either in the day or night
time, and all white persons so assembling themselves with freedmen,
free negroes or mulattoes, or usually associating with freedmen, free
negroes or mulattoes, on terms of equality, or living in adultery or
fornication with a freed woman, free negro or mulatto, shall be
deemed vagrants, and on conviction thereof shall be fined in a sum
not exceeding, in the case of a freedman, free negro, or mulatto, fifty
dollars, and a white man two hundred dollars, and imprisoned at the
discretion of the court, the free negro not exceeding ten days, and
the white man not exceeding six months. . . .
Sec. 7. . . . If any freedman, free negro, or mulatto shall fail or refuse
to pay any tax levied according to the provisions of the sixth section
of this act, it shall be prima facie evidence of vagrancy, and it shall be
the duty of the sheriff to arrest such freedman, free negro, or mulatto
or such person refusing or neglecting to pay such tax, and proceed
at once to hire for the shortest time such delinquent tax-payer to any
one who will pay the said tax, with accruing costs, giving preference
to the employer, if there be one.
Civil Rights of Freedmen
Sec. 1. . . . That all freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes may sue and
be sued, implead and be impleaded, in all the courts of law and equity
of this State, and may acquire personal property, and choses in action,
by descent or purchase, and may dispose of the same in the same
manner and to the same extent that white persons may: Provided, That
the provisions of this section shall not be so construed as to allow any
freedman, free negro, or mulatto to rent or lease any lands or tenements except in incorporated cities or towns. . . .
Sec. 2. . . . All freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes may intermarry with each other, in the same manner and under the same regulations that are provided by law for white persons: Provided, That the
clerk of probate shall keep separate records of the same.
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Sec. 3. . . . All freedmen, free negroes, or mulattoes who do now
and have herebefore lived and cohabited together as husband and
wife shall be taken and held in law as legally married, and the issue
shall be taken and held as legitimate for all purposes; that it shall
not be lawful for any freedman, free negro, or mulatto to intermarry
with any white person; nor for any white person to intermarry with
any freedman, free negro, or mulatto; and any person who shall so
intermarry, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and on conviction
thereof shall be confined in the State penitentiary for life; and those
shall be deemed freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes who are of
pure negro blood, and those descended from a negro to the third generation, inclusive, though one ancestor in each generation may have
been a white person.
Sec. 4. . . . In addition to cases in which freedmen, free negroes,
and mulattoes are now by law competent witnesses, freedmen, free
negroes, or mulattoes shall be competent in civil cases, when a party
or parties to the suit, either plaintiff or plaintiffs, defendant or defendants; also in cases where freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes is
or are either plaintiff or plaintiffs, defendant or defendants, and a
white person or white persons, is or are the opposing party or parties, plaintiff or plaintiffs, defendant or defendants. They shall also
be competent witnesses in all criminal prosecutions where the crime
charged is alleged to have been committed by a white person upon or
against the person or property of a freedman, free negro, or mulatto:
Provided, that in all cases said witnesses shall be examined in open
court, on the stand; except, however, they may be examined before
the grand jury, and shall in all cases be subject to the rules and tests
of the common law as to competency and credibility.
Sec. 5. . . . Every freedman, free negro, and mulatto shall, on the
second Monday of January, one thousand eight hundred and sixtysix and annually thereafter, have a lawful home or employment,
and shall have written evidence thereof. . . .
Sec. 6. . . . All contracts for labor made with freedmen, free negroes,
and mulattoes for a longer period than one month shall be in writing,
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and in duplicate, attested and read to said freedman, free negro, or
mulatto by a beat, city or county officer, or two disinterested white
persons of the county in which the labor is to be performed, of which
each party shall have one; and said contracts shall be taken and held
as entire contracts, and if the laborer shall quit the ser vice of the
employer before the expiration of his term of ser vice, without good
cause, he shall forfeit his wages for that year up to the time of quitting.
Sec. 7. . . . Every civil officer shall, and every person may, arrest
and carry back to his or her legal employer any freedman, free negro,
or mulatto who shall have quit the ser vice of his or her employer
before the expiration of his or her term of ser vice without good
cause. . . . Provided, that said arrested party, after being so returned,
may appeal to the justice of the peace or member of the board of
police of the county, who, on notice to the alleged employer, shall try
summarily whether said appellant is legally employed by the alleged
employer, and has good cause to quit said employer; either party
shall have the right of appeal to the county court, pending which the
alleged deserter shall be remanded to the alleged employer or otherwise disposed of, as shall be right and just; and the decision of the
county court shall be final.
Certain Offenses of Freedmen
Sec. 1. . . . That no freedman, free negro or mulatto, not in the military ser vice of the United States government, and not licensed so to
do by the board of police of his or her county, shall keep or carry
firearms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk or bowie knife, and
on conviction thereof in the county court shall be punished by
fine, not exceeding ten dollars, and pay the costs of such proceedings, and all such arms or ammunition shall be forfeited to the
informer. . . .
Sec. 2. . . . Any freedman, free negro, or mulatto committing riots,
routs, affrays, trespasses, malicious mischief, cruel treatment to
animals, seditious speeches, insulting gestures, language, or acts, or
assaults on any person, disturbance of the peace, exercising the func-
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tion of a minister of the Gospel without a license from some regularly organized church, vending spirituous or intoxicating liquors,
or committing any other misdemeanor, the punishment of which is
not specifically provided for by law, shall, upon conviction thereof
in the county court, be fined not less than ten dollars, and not more
than one hundred dollars, and may be imprisoned at the discretion
of the court, not exceeding thirty days.
Sec. 3. . . . If any white person shall sell, lend, or give to any freedman, free negro, or mulatto any fire-arms, dirk or bowie knife, or
ammunition, or any spirituous or intoxicating liquors, such person
or persons so offending, upon conviction thereof in the county court
of his or her county, shall be fined not exceeding fifty dollars, and
may be imprisoned, at the discretion of the court, not exceeding
thirty days. . . .
Sec. 5. . . . If any freedman, free negro, or mulatto, convicted of any
of the misdemeanors provided against in this act, shall fail or refuse
for the space of five days, after conviction, to pay the fine and costs
imposed, such person shall be hired out by the sheriff or other officer, at public outcry, to any white person who will pay said fine and
all costs, and take said convict for the shortest time.
1. Why do you think the state of Mississippi required all black persons to
sign yearly labor contracts but not white citizens?
2. What basic rights are granted to the former slaves and which are denied
to them by the Black Code?
98. A Sharecropping Contract (1866)
Source: Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Tennessee,
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, National Archives.
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Despite the widespread desire for land, few former slaves were able to
acquire farms of their own in the post– Civil War South. Most ended up as
sharecroppers, working on white- owned land for a share of the crop at the
end of the growing season. Sharecropping was a kind of compromise
between blacks’ desire for independence from white control and planters’
desire for a disciplined labor force. This contract, representative of thousands, originated in Shelby County, Tennessee. The laborers sign with an
X, as they are illiterate. Typical of early postwar contracts, it gave the planter
the right to supervise the labor of his employees. Later sharecropping contracts afforded former slaves greater autonomy. Families would rent parcels
of land, work it under their own direction, and divide the crop with the
owner at the end of the year. But as the price of cotton fell after the Civil
War, workers found it difficult to profit from the sharecropping system.
T h o m a s J. Ro s s agrees to employ the Freedmen to plant and raise
a crop on his Rosstown Plantation . . . On the following Rules, Regulations and Remunerations.
The said Ross agrees to furnish the land to cultivate, and a sufficient number of mules & horses and feed them to make and house
said crop and all necessary farming utensils to carry on the same
and to give unto said Freedmen whose names appear below one half
of all the cotton, corn and wheat that is raised on said place for the
year 1866 after all the necessary expenses are deducted out that
accrues on said crop. Outside of the Freedmen’s labor in harvesting, carry ing to market and selling the same and the said Freedmen
whose names appear below covenant and agrees to and with said
Thomas J. Ross that for and in consideration of one half of the crop
before mentioned that they will plant, cultivate, and raise under the
management control and Superintendence of said Ross, in good
faith, a cotton, corn and oat crop under his management for the year
1866. And we the said Freedmen agrees to furnish ourselves & families in provisions, clothing, medicine and medical bills and all, and
every kind of other expenses that we may incur on said plantation
for the year 1866 free of charge to said Ross. Should the said Ross fur-
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nish us any of the above supplies or any other kind of expenses, during said year, are to settle and pay him out of the net proceeds of our
part of the crop the retail price of the county at time of sale or any
price we may agree upon. The said Ross shall keep a regular book
account, against each and every one or the head of every family to be
adjusted and settled at the end of the year.
We furthermore bind ourselves to and with said Ross that we will
do good work and labor ten hours a day on an average, winter and
summer. The time to run from the time we commence to the time
we quit. . . . We further agree that we will lose all lost time, or pay at
the rate of one dollar per day, rainy days excepted. In sickness and
women lying in childbed are to lose the time and account for it to the
other hands out of his or her part of the crop at the same rates that
she or they may receive per annum.
We furthermore bind ourselves that we will obey the orders of said
Ross in all things in carrying out and managing said crop for said
year and be docked for disobedience. All is responsible for all farming
utensils that is on hand or may be placed in care of said Freedmen for
the year 1866 to said Ross and are also responsible to said Ross if we
carelessly, maliciously maltreat any of his stock for said year to said
Ross for damages to be assessed out of our wages for said year.
Samuel (X) Johnson, Thomas (X) Richard, Tinny (X) Fitch, Jessie (X)
Simmons, Sophe (X) Pruden, Henry (X) Pruden, Frances (X) Pruden,
Elijah (X) Smith
1. How does the contract limit the freedom of the laborers?
2. What kinds of benefits and risks for the freedpeople are associated with
a sharecropping arrangement?
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99. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Home Life”
(ca. 1875)
Source: “Home Life,” manuscript, ca. 1875, Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers,
Library of Congress.
Women activists saw Reconstruction as the moment for women to claim
their own emancipation. With blacks guaranteed equality before the law
by the Fourteenth Amendment and black men given the right to vote by
the Fifteenth, women demanded that the boundaries of American democracy be expanded to include them as well. Other feminists debated how to
achieve “liberty for married women.” In 1875, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
drafted an essay demanding that the idea of equality, which had “revolutionized” American politics, be extended into private life. Genuine liberty
for women, she insisted, required an overhaul of divorce laws (which generally required evidence of adultery, desertion, or extreme abuse to terminate a marriage) and an end to the authority men exercised over their wives.
Women’s demand for the right to vote found few sympathetic male listeners. Even fewer supported liberalized divorce laws. But Stanton’s extension of the idea of “liberty for women” into the most intimate areas of
private life identified a question that would become a central concern of
later generations of feminists.
We a r e i n the midst of a social revolution, greater than any political or religious revolution, that the world has ever seen, because it
goes deep down to the very foundations of society. . . . A question of
magnitude presses on our consideration, whether man and woman
are equal, joint heirs to all the richness and joy of earth and Heaven,
or whether they were eternally ordained, one to be sovereign, the
other slave. . . . Here is a question with half the human family, and
that the stronger half, on one side, who are in possession of the citadel, hold the key to the treasury and make the laws and public sentiment to suit their own purposes. Can all this be made to change base
without prolonged discussion, upheavings, heartburnings, violence
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and war? Will man yield what he considers to be his legitimate
authority over woman with less struggle than have Popes and Kings
their supposed rights over their subjects, or slaveholders over their
slaves? No, no. John Stuart Mill says the generality of the male sex
cannot yet tolerate the idea of living with an equal at the fireside; and
here is the secret of the opposition to woman’s equality in the state
and the church—men are not ready to recognize it in the home. This
is the real danger apprehended in giving woman the ballot, for as
long as man makes, interprets, and executes the laws for himself,
he holds the power under any system. Hence when he expresses
the fear that liberty for woman would upset the family relation, he
acknowledges that her present condition of subjection is not of her
own choosing, and that if she had the power the whole relation would
be essentially changed. And this is just what is coming to pass, the
kernel of the struggle we witness to day.
This is woman’s transition period from slavery to freedom and all
these social upheavings, before which the wisest and bravest stand
appalled, are but necessary incidents in her progress to equality.
Conservatism cries out we are going to destroy the family. Timid
reformers answer, the political equality of woman will not change
it. They are both wrong. It will entirely revolutionize it. When woman
is man’s equal the marriage relation cannot stand on the basis it is
to day. But this change will not destroy it; as state constitutions and
statute laws did not create conjugal and maternal love, they cannot
annual them. . . . We shall have the family, that great conservator of
national strength and morals, after the present idea of man’s headship is repudiated and woman set free. To establish a republican
form of government [and] the right of individual judgment in the
family must of necessity involve discussion, dissension, division, but
the purer, higher, holier marriage will be evolved by the very evils
we now see and deplore. This same law of equality that has revolutionized the state and the church is now knocking at the door of our
homes and sooner or later there too it must do its work. Let us one
and all wisely bring ourselves into line with this great law for man
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will gain as much as woman by an equal companionship in the nearest and holiest relations of life. . . . So long as people marry from
considerations of policy, from every possible motive but the true
one, discord and division must be the result. So long as the State provides no education for youth on the questions and throws no safeguards around the formation of marriage ties, it is in honor bound
to open wide the door of escape. From a woman’s standpoint, I see
that marriage as an indissoluble tie is slavery for woman, because
law, religion and public sentiment all combine under this idea to hold
her true to this relation, whatever it may be and there is no other
human slavery that knows such depths of degradations as a wife
chained to a man whom she neither loves nor respects, no other slavery so disastrous in its consequences on the race, or to individual
respect, growth and development. . . .
By the laws of several states in this republic made by Christian
representatives of the people divorces are granted to day for . . .
seventeen reasons. . . . By this kind of legislation in the several states
we have practically decided two important points: 1st That marriage is a dissoluble tie that may be sundered by a decree of the
courts. 2nd That it is a civil contract and not a sacrament of the
church, and the one involves the other. . . .
A legal contract for a section of land requires that the parties be of
age, of sound mind, [and] that there be no flaw in the title. . . . But a
legal marriage in many states in the Union may be contracted between
a boy of fourteen and a girl of twelve without the consent of parents
or guardians, without publication of banns. . . . Now what person of
common sense, or conscience, can endorse laws as wise or prudent
that sanction acts such as these. Let the state be logical: if marriage is
a civil contract, it should be subject to the laws of all other contracts,
carefully made, the parties of age, and all agreements faithfully
observed. . . .
Let us now glance at a few of the popular objections to liberal
divorce laws. It is said that to make divorce respectable by law, gospel and public sentiment is to break up all family relations. Which
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is to say that human affections are the result and not the foundation
of the canons of the church and statutes of the state. . . . To open the
doors of escape to those who dwell in continual antagonism, to the
unhappy wives of drunkards, libertines, knaves, lunatics and tyrants,
need not necessarily embitter the relations of those who are contented
and happy, but on the contrary the very fact of freedom strengthens
and purifies the bond of union. When husbands and wives do not
own each other as property, but are bound together only by affection,
marriage will be a life long friendship and not a heavy yoke, from
which both may sometimes long for deliverance. The freer the relations are between human beings, the happier. . . .
Home life to the best of us has its shadows and sorrows, and
because of our ignorance this must needs be. . . . The day is breaking.
It is something to know that life’s ills are not showered upon us by
the Good Father from a kind of Pandora’s box, but are the results of
causes that we have the power to control. By a knowledge and observance of law the road to health and happiness opens before [us]: a joy
and peace that passeth all understanding shall yet be ours and Paradise regained on earth. When marriage results from a true union of
intellect and spirit and when Mothers and Fathers give to their holy
offices even that preparation of soul and body that the artist gives to
the conception of his poem, statue or landscape, then will marriage,
maternity and paternity acquire a new sacredness and dignity and a
nobler type of manhood and womanhood will glorify the race!!
1. How does Stanton define the “social revolution” the United States underwent after the Civil War?
2. How does Stanton believe that individual freedom within the family
can be established?
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100. Frederick Douglass, “The Composite
Nation” (1869)
Source: Philip S. Foner and Daniel Rosenberg, eds., Racism, Dissent, and
Asian Americans from 1850 to the Present (Westport, Conn., 1993), pp.
Another group that did not share fully in the expansion of rights inspired
by the Civil War and Reconstruction was Asian-Americans. Prejudice
against Asians was deeply entrenched, especially on the West Coast,
where most immigrants from Asia lived. When the Radical Republican
Charles Sumner, senator from Massachusetts, moved to allow Asians to
become naturalized citizens (a right that had been barred to them since
1790), senators from California and Oregon objected vociferously, and the
proposal was defeated.
Another advocate of equal rights for Asian-Americans was Frederick
Douglass. In his remarkable “Composite Nation” speech, delivered in Boston
in 1869, Douglass condemned anti-Asian discrimination and called for giving them all the rights of other Americans, including the right to vote. Douglass’s comprehensive vision of a country made up of people of all races and
national origins and enjoying equal rights was too radical for the time, but
it would win greater and greater acceptance during the twentieth century.
T h e r e wa s a time when even brave men might look fearfully at
the destiny of the Republic. When our country was involved in a tangled network of contradictions; when vast and irreconcilable social
forces fiercely disputed for ascendancy and control; when a heavy
curse rested upon our very soil, defying alike the wisdom and the
virtue of the people to remove it; when our professions were loudly
mocked by our practice and our name was a reproach and a by word
to a mocking earth; when our good ship of state, freighted with the
best hopes of the oppressed of all nations, was furiously hurled
against the hard and flinty rocks of derision, and every cord, bolt,
beam and bend in her body quivered beneath the shock, there was
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some apology for doubt and despair. But that day has happily passed
away. The storm has been weathered, and the portents are nearly all
in our favor.
There are clouds, wind, smoke and dust and noise, over head and
around, and there will always be; but no genuine thunder, with
destructive bolt, menaces from any quarter of the sky.
The real trouble with us was never our system or form of Government, or the principles under lying it; but the peculiar composition of our people; the relations existing between them and the
compromising spirit which controlled the ruling power of the
We have for a long time hesitated to adopt and may yet refuse
to adopt, and carry out, the only principle which can solve that difficulty and give peace, strength and security to the Republic, and that
is the principle of absolute equality.
We are a country of all extremes, ends and opposites; the most conspicuous example of composite nationality in the world. Our people
defy all the ethnological and logical classifications. In races we range
all the way from black to white, with intermediate shades which, as
in the apocalyptic vision, no man can name a number.
In regard to creeds and faiths, the condition is no better, and no
worse. Differences both as to race and to religion are evidently more
likely to increase than to diminish.
We stand between the populous shores of two great oceans. Our
land is capable of supporting one fifth of all the globe. Here, labor is
abundant and here labor is better remunerated than any where else.
All moral, social and geographical causes, conspire to bring to us
the peoples of all other over populated countries.
Europe and Africa are already here, and the Indian was here before
either. He stands to-day between the two extremes of black and
white, too proud to claim fraternity with either, and yet too weak
to with stand the power of either. Heretofore the policy of our government has been governed by race pride, rather than by wisdom.
Until recently, neither the Indian nor the negro has been treated as a
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part of the body politic. No attempt has been made to inspire either
with a sentiment of patriotism, but the hearts of both races have
been diligently sown with the dangerous seeds of discontent and
The policy of keeping the Indians to themselves, has kept the tomahawk and scalping knife busy upon our borders, and has cost us
largely in blood and treasure. Our treatment of the negro has slacked
humanity, and filled the country with agitation and ill-feeling and
brought the nation to the verge of ruin.
Before the relations of these two races are satisfactorily settled,
and in spite of all opposition, a new race is making its appearance
within our borders, and claiming attention. It is estimated that not
less than one-hundred thousand Chinamen are now within the limits of the United States. Several years ago every vessel, large or small,
of steam or sail, bound to our Pacific coast and hailing from the
Flowery kingdom, added to the number and strength of this element of our population.
Men differ widely as to the magnitude of this potential Chinese
immigration. The fact that by the late treaty with China, we bind
ourselves to receive immigrants from that country only as the subjects of the Emperor, and by the construction, at least, are bound not
to naturalize them, and the further fact that Chinamen themselves
have a superstitious devotion to their country and an aversion to permanent location in any other, contracting even to have their bones
carried back should they die abroad, and from the fact that many
have returned to China, and the still more stubborn that resistance to
their coming has increased rather than diminished, it is inferred that
we shall never have a large Chinese population in America. This
however is not my opinion.
It may be admitted that these reasons, and others, may check and
moderate the tide of immigration; but it is absurd to think that they
will do more than this. Counting their number now, by the thousands, the time is not remote when they will count them by the millions. The Emperor’s hold upon the Chinaman may be strong, but
the Chinaman’s hold upon himself is stronger.
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Treaties against naturalization, like all other treaties, are limited
by circumstances. As to the superstitious attachment of the Chinese
to China, that, like all other superstitions, will dissolve in the light
and heat of truth and experience. The Chinaman may be a bigot, but
it does not follow that he will continue to be one, tomorrow. He is a
man, and will be very likely to act like a man. He will not be long in
finding out that a country which is good enough to live in, is good
enough to die in; and that a soil that was good enough to hold his
body while alive, will be good enough to hold his bones when he is
Those who doubt a large immigration, should remember that the
past furnishes no criterion as a basis of calculation. We live under
new and improved conditions of migration, and these conditions
are constantly improving. America is no longer an obscure and inaccessible country. Our ships are in every sea, our commerce in every
port, our language is heard all around the globe, steam and lightning
have revolutionized the whole domain of human thought, changed
all geographical relations, make a day of the present seem equal to
a thousand years of the past, and the continent that Columbus only
conjectured four centuries ago is now the center of the world.
I have said that the Chinese will come, and have given some reasons why we may expect them in very large numbers in no very distant future. Do you ask, if I favor such immigration, I answer I would.
Would you have them naturalized, and have them invested with all
the rights of American citizenship? I would. Would you allow them
to vote? I would. Would you allow them to hold office? I would.
But are there not reasons against all this? Is there not such a law
or principle as that of self preservation? Does not every race owe
something to itself? Should it not attend to the dictates of common
sense? Should not a superior race protect itself from contact with
inferior ones? Are not the white people the owners of this continent? Have they not the right to say what kind of people shall be
allowed to come here and settle? Is there not such a thing as being
more generous than wise? In the effort to promote civilization may
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we not corrupt and destroy what we have? Is it best to take on board
more passengers than the ship will carry?
To all this and more I have one among many answers, altogether
satisfactory to me, though I cannot promise that it will be so to you.
I submit that this question of Chinese immigration should be settled upon higher principles than those of a cold and selfish expediency. There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest
upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and
indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of
migration; the right which belongs to no par ticular race, but belongs
alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here,
and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that
I assert for the Chinese and the Japanese, and for all other varieties of
men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of
race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to
the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyes and light
haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle
for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have
no need to doubt that they will get their full share.
But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would
limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men.
I want a home here not only for the negro, the mulatto and the
Latin races; but I want the Asiatic to find a home here in the United
States, and feel at home here, both for his sake and for ours. Right
wrongs no man. If respect is had to majorities, the fact that only one
fifth of the population of the globe is white, the other four fi fths are
colored, ought to have some weight and influence in disposing of
this and similar questions. It would be a sad reflection upon the
laws of nature and upon the idea of justice, to say nothing of a common Creator, if four-fifths of mankind were deprived of the rights of
migration to make room for the one fifth. If the white race may
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exclude all other races from this continent, it may rightfully do the
same in respect to all other lands, islands, capes and continents, and
thus have all the world to itself. Thus what would seem to belong to
the whole, would become the property only of a part. So much for
what is right, now let us see what is wise.
And here I hold that a liberal and brotherly welcome to all who
are likely to come to the United States is the only wise policy which
this nation can adopt.
I close these remarks as I began. If our action shall be in accordance with the principles of justice, liberty, and perfect human
equality, no eloquence can adequately portray the greatness and
grandeur of the future of the Republic.
We shall spread the network of our science and civilization over
all who seek their shelter whether from Asia, Africa, or the Isles of
the sea. We shall mold them all, each after his kind, into Americans;
Indian and Celt, negro and Saxon, Latin and Teuton, Mongolian and
Caucasian, Jew and Gentile, all shall here bow to the same law, speak
the same language, support the same government, enjoy the same
liberty, vibrate with the same national enthusiasm, and seek the
same national ends.
1. What does Douglass mean by the term “composite nation”?
2. Why does he believe that people should be allowed to move freely from
one country to another?
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101. Robert B. Elliott on Civil Rights (1874)
Source: Civil Rights. Speech of Hon. Robert B. Elliott, of South Carolina,
in the House of Representatives, January 6, 1874 (Washington, D.C.,
1874), pp. 1–8.
One of the South’s most prominent black politicians during Reconstruction, Robert B. Elliott appears to have been born in England and arrived in
Boston shortly before the Civil War. He came to South Carolina in 1867,
where he established a law office and was elected as a delegate to the state’s
constitutional convention of 1868. During the 1870s, he served in the legislature and was twice elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
In January 1874, Elliott delivered a celebrated speech in Congress in
support of the bill that became the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The measure
outlawed racial discrimination in transportation and places of public
accommodation like theaters and hotels. Thanks to the Civil War and
Reconstruction, Elliott proclaimed, “equality before the law” regardless of
race had been written into the laws and Constitution and had become an
essential element of American freedom. Reconstruction, he announced,
had “settled forever the political status of my race.”
Elliott proved to be wrong. By the turn of the century, many of the
rights blacks had gained after the Civil War had been taken away. It would
be left to future generations to breathe new life into Elliott’s dream of
“equal, impartial, and universal liberty.”
S i r , i t i s scarcely twelve years since that gentleman [Alexander H.
Stephens] shocked the civilized world by announcing the birth of
a government which rested on human slavery as its corner-stone.
The progress of events has swept away that pseudo-government
which rested on greed, pride, and tyranny; and the race whom he
then ruthlessly spurned and trampled on are here to meet him in
debate, and to demand that the rights which are enjoyed by their
former oppressors—who vainly sought to overthrow a Government which they could not prostitute to the base uses of slavery—
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shall be accorded to those who even in the darkness of slavery kept
their allegiance true to freedom and the Union. Sir, the gentleman
from Georgia has learned much since 1861; but he is still a laggard.
Let him put away entirely the false and fatal theories which have so
greatly marred an otherwise enviable record. Let him accept, in its
fullness and beneficence, the great doctrine that American citizenship carries with it every civil and political right which manhood
can confer. Let him lend his influence, with all his masterly ability,
to complete the proud structure of legislation which makes this
nation worthy of the great declaration which heralded its birth, and
he will have done that which will most nearly redeem his reputation in the eyes of the world, and best vindicate the wisdom of that
policy which has permitted him to regain his seat upon this floor. . . .
Sir, equality before the law is now the broad, universal, glorious
rule and mandate of the Republic. No State can violate that. Kentucky and Georgia may crowd their statute-books with retrograde
and barbarous legislation; they may rejoice in the odious eminence
of their consistent hostility to all the great steps of human progress
which have marked our national history since slavery tore down the
stars and stripes on Fort Sumter; but, if Congress shall do its duty,
if Congress shall enforce the great guarantees which the Supreme
Court has declared to be the one pervading purpose of all the recent
amendments, then their unwise and unenlightened conduct will fall
with the same weight upon the gentlemen from those States who
now lend their influence to defeat this bill, as upon the poorest slave
who once had no rights which the honorable gentlemen were bound
to respect. . . .
No language could convey a more complete assertion of the power
of Congress over the subject embraced in the present bill than is
expressed [in the Fourteenth Amendment]. If the States do not conform to the requirements of this clause, if they continue to deny to
any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the
laws, or as the Supreme Court had said, “deny equal justice in its
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courts,” then Congress is here said to have power to enforce the constitutional guarantee by appropriate legislation. That is the power
which this bill now seeks to put in exercise. It proposes to enforce
the constitutional guarantee against inequality and discrimination
by appropriate legislation. It does not seek to confer new rights, nor
to place rights conferred by State citizenship under the protection
of the United States, but simply to prevent and forbid inequality and
discrimination on account of race, color, or previous condition of
servitude. Never was there a bill more completely within the constitutional power of Congress. Never was there a bill which appealed
for support more strongly to that sense of justice and fair-play which
has been said, and in the main with justice, to be a characteristic of
the Anglo-Saxon race. The Constitution warrants it; the Supreme
Court sanctions it; justice demands it.
Sir, I have replied to the extent of my ability to the arguments
which have been presented by the opponents of this measure. I have
replied also to some of the legal propositions advanced by gentlemen
on the other side; and now that I am about to conclude, I am deeply
sensible of the imperfect manner in which I have performed the
task. Technically, this bill is to decide upon the civil status of the
colored American citizen; a point disputed at the very formation of
our present Government, when by a short-sighted policy, a policy
repugnant to true republican government, one negro counted as
three-fifths of a man. The logical result of this mistake of the framers of the Constitution strengthened the cancer of slavery, which
finally spread its poisonous tentacles over the southern portion of
the body-politic. To arrest its growth and save the nation we have
passed through the harrowing operation of intestine war, dreaded at
all times, resorted to at the last extremity, like the surgeon’s knife,
but absolutely necessary to extirpate the disease which threatened
with the life of the nation the overthrow of civil and political liberty on this continent. In that dire extremity the members of the
race which I have the honor in part to represent—the race which
pleads for justice at your hands to-day, forgetful of their inhuman
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and brutalizing servitude at the South, their degradation and ostracism at the North—flew willingly and gallantly to the support of the
national Government. Their sufferings, assistance, privations, and
trials in the swamps and in the rice-fields, their valor on the land and
on the sea, is a part of the ever-glorious record which makes up the
history of a nation preserved, and might, should I urge the claim,
incline you to respect and guarantee their rights and privileges as
citizens of our common Republic. But I remember that valor, devotion, and loyalty are not always rewarded according to their just deserts, and that after the battle some who have borne the brunt of the
fray may, through neglect or contempt, be assigned to a subordinate
place, while the enemies in war may be preferred to the sufferers.
The results of the war, as seen in reconstruction, have settled forever the political status of my race. The passage of this bill will determine the civil status, not only of the negro, but of any other class of
citizens who may feel themselves discriminated against. It will form
the cap-stone of that temple of liberty, begun on this continent under
discouraging circumstances, carried on in spite of the sneers of monarchists and the cavils of pretended friends of freedom, until at last it
stands in all its beautiful symmetry and proportions, a building the
grandest which the world has ever seen, realizing the most sanguine
expectations and the highest hopes of those who, in the name of
equal, impartial, and universal liberty, laid the foundation stones.
1. How does Elliott defend the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Bill?
2. Why does Elliott refer to the “cornerstone speech” of Alexander H.
Stephens in making his argument?
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102. Jorgen and Otto Jorgensen,
Homesteading in Montana (1908)
Source: Jorgen and Otto Jorgensen: “Homesteading in Montana (1908)” from
the Smith Collections 178, Montana Historical Society. Reprinted by
permission of the Montana Historical Society.
The decades after the Civil War witnessed a flood of migrants moving
beyond the Mississippi River to take up farming. Hundreds of thousands
of families acquired land under the Homestead Act, and many others purchased it from railroad companies and other private owners. As in earlier
westward movements, uprooting one’s family to take up land often
located far from settled communities required remarkable courage and
fortitude. In later interviews, Jorgen Jorgensen and his son Otto, members
of a Danish-American family, recalled the decision to move to Montana in
1906. While popu lar lore celebrated the lone pioneer settler, the Jorgensens’ experience illustrates the fact that many homesteaders went
West as parts of communities, often orga nized on an ethnic basis.
[ Jo r g e n : ] O n e w o u l d think that we would have been satisfied to
settle down where we were but such was not the case. We had constantly longed for fellowship with other Danes in a Danish congregation in a Danish settlement with a Danish school. There was a Danish
Church in Waupaca [Wisconsin] but that was a distance of seven
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miles away. Our neighbors were all native Americans. Most of them
were uneducated and not too intellectual. They were congenial and
friendly enough but we got little satisfaction or enjoyment from fellowship with them. The language was a handicap too because Kristiane [his wife] had not had as good an opportunity to learn it as I who
had mixed with other people more. She could make herself understood alright but has since improved a great deal. She reads English
books quite well but when it comes to writing I have to do it.
In the meantime we had managed to get all the land under cultivation that I was able to handle without hired help. All we had to do
was to plant potatoes in the spring, dig them up in the fall, and haul
them to town during the winter which was a little too tame an existence. I have mentioned two reasons why we wanted to move but
there was a third. The older girls were growing up, and what if one
of them should come home some day with one of these individuals
with a foreign background and present him as her sweetheart. This
was unthinkable. (Strangely enough after we came to Montana one
of the girls actually did come and present an American as her sweetheart but he was a high class individual. He was a lawyer who later
became district judge for Sheridan and other counties.)
When E. F. Madsen’s call came in “Dannevirke” in 1906 to establish
a Danish colony in eastern Montana, I immediately said, “That’s
where we are going,” and Kristiane immediately agreed. I think people
thought we were crazy to abandon what was, as far as people could tell,
the comfort and security we had for insecurity and a cold, harsh climate. “You’ll freeze to death out there,” they said and related terrifying experiences of people who had succumbed in snowstorms. But it
didn’t seem to make much of an impression on us. I was past 50 years
of age and if we were to build up another farm it was time to get
E. F. Madsen from Clinton, Iowa had been out in Montana on October 6, 1906 to find a place for a new Danish colony and had selected
the place where it now is located in the northeast corner of Montana
about 25 miles from the Canadian line and close to the Dakota
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boundary. Madsen named it “Dagman.” Its full name is “Dronning
Dagmar’s Minde” (Queen Dagmar’s Memorial), and is the first such
colony in the United States. The land is fertile with smooth rolling
prairies. The land was not surveyed but could be claimed by anyone
over 21 years of age under Squatter’s right. The 160 acres allowed was
later increased to 320 acres. . . .
[Otto:] My first recollection of any talk of moving or living anywhere else but where we were, was the folks, setting at the kitchen
table one night—it must have been in 1906. Mother was fidgeting
with something or other on the table, listening to Pa read aloud from
the weekly Danish publication, Dannevirke, with a bright, faraway
look in her eyes; and when he had fi nished, she said: “Skul’ vi?”
(should we?) We kids sat around, I for one, with open mouth, sensing
something special was in the wind, and when the word Montana was
mentioned,—MONTANA!! Montana to me was a magic word! That’s
where Falsbuts’ were going to go! And Falsbuts’ boys had thoroughly
briefed me on what could be expected there: buffalo, cowboys, and
wild horses— Oh boy! Free land, homesteads, Montana and the West!
No one has any idea of what those magic words could conjure up in a
10-year-old boy’s mind!
As I have grown older, I have often wondered what prompts the pioneering spirit in some people and leaves others completely devoid of it.
As the folks became serious about the matter, the idea crystallized, as
was evidenced by the preparations such as a new cookstove, a swell
big kitchen range, new harnesses, etc. It was now “for sure” that the big
adventure was about to become a reality. But it was not until the spring
of 1908 that all the difficulties of such an undertaking were overcome. Selling the farm, auction sale, getting, the cash, etc. We didn’t
sell much— every thing was stuffed into the immigrant-car, (special homeseekers rates) and when I say “stuffed” I mean just that!
Cows and calves, chickens, pigs, horses, dogs, (no cats). All household
goods, all the farming implements, wagons, mower, hayrake, and
hayrack. The hayrack was used to double-deck the chickens above
the cows.
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I have often wondered what Pa’s reactions were to all this. He never
showed anything, outwardly. I remember when we left the farm for
the last time, and we were about to get into the wagon. He was buttoning his coat with one hand and with the other, reached down to stroke
the big old gray tom-cat, which was to be left behind; and he said,
“Kitty, Kitty!” I was dumbfounded, for I had never seen him do a thing
like that before. He straightened up and looked around at the good
new house and big new red barn; and in his slow, easy-going and deliberate way, climbed into the wagon. I have often wondered what his
innermost thoughts were at that moment. But like so many thousands
before him who have pulled up stakes for the unknown future in the
West, he left little room for sentiment. In tribute to my father, I think
this was his staunchest moment. Of course, the die was cast; the decision had been made some time before, which also took courage—but
the final last look at the fruits of 12 to 14 of his best years, brought
from him no outward sign of regret. Nor did he, I’m glad to say, ever
live to regret it. To turn his back on all this, against the advice of
well-meaning neighbors and friends; and at the age of 51 years,
take a family of eight children out into the un-tracked prairies fi fty
miles from the railroad and “nowhere” with measly small capital,
took courage and fortitude, to say the least. That kind of spirit and
courage, I’m afraid, is fast becoming a thing of the past in these
United States.
1. In what ways do ideas about freedom affect the family’s decision to
move to Montana?
2. Why do you think Otto believes that the pioneer spirit is “a thing of the
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103. Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth
Source: Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth,” North American Review (June 1889),
pp. 653–64.
One of the richest men in Gilded Age America, the industrialist Andrew
Carnegie promoted what he called the Gospel of Wealth, the idea that
those who accumulated money had an obligation to use it to promote the
advancement of society. He explained his outlook in this article in the
North American Review, one of the era’s most prominent magazines. Carnegie would become famous for practicing what he preached. He helped to
fund the creation of public libraries throughout the United States and
overseas, and gave money to philanthropies and charities ranging from
Carnegie Hall in New York City to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But as an employer, he was tyrannical, strongly opposing
labor unions and approving the use of violence against his own workers,
including in the Homestead strike that took place three years after the
publication of this article.
Th e p r o b l e m o f our age is the proper administration of wealth,
that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and
poor in harmonious relationship. The conditions of human life
have not only been changed, but revolutionized, within the past
few hundred years. In former days there was little difference between
the dwelling, dress, food, and environment of the chief and those of
his retainers. The Indians are to-day where civilized man then was.
When visiting the Sioux, I was led to the wigwam of the chief. It
was like the others in external appearance, and even within the difference was trifling between it and those of the poorest of his braves.
The contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage
of the laborer with us to-day measures the change which has come
with civilization. This change, however, is not to be deplored, but
welcomed as highly beneficial. It is well, nay, essential, for the prog-
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ress of the race that the houses of some should be homes for all that
is highest and best in literature and the arts, and for all the refinements of civilization, rather than that none should be so. Much
better this great irregularity than universal squalor. Without wealth
there can be no Mæcenas. The “good old times” were not good old
times. Neither master nor servant was as well situated then as to-day.
A relapse to old conditions would be disastrous to both—not the
least so to him who serves—and would sweep away civilization with
it. But whether the change be for good or ill, it is upon us, beyond our
power to alter, and, therefore, to be accepted and made the best of. It
is a waste of time to criticize the inevitable. . . .
The growing disposition to tax more and more heavily large estates
left at death is a cheering indication of the growth of a salutary
change in public opinion. The State of Pennsylvania now takes—
subject to some exceptions— one tenth of the property left by its citizens. The budget presented in the British Parliament the other day
proposes to increase the death duties; and, most significant of all, the
new tax is to be a graduated one. Of all forms of taxation this seems
the wisest. Men who continue hoarding great sums all their lives,
the proper use of which for public ends would work good to the community from which it chiefly came, should be made to feel that the
community, in the form of the State, cannot thus be deprived of its
proper share. By taxing estates heavily at death the State marks its
condemnation of the selfish millionaire’s unworthy life.
It is desirable that nations should go much further in this direction. Indeed, it is difficult to set bounds to the share of a rich man’s
estate which should go at his death to the public through the agency
of the State, and by all means such taxes should be graduated, beginning at nothing upon moderate sums to dependants, and increasing
rapidly as the amounts swell. . . .
In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help
those who will help themselves; to provide part of the means by
which those who desire to improve may do so; to give those who
desire to rise the aids by which they may rise; to assist, but rarely or
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never to do all. Neither the individual nor the race is improved by
almsgiving. Those worthy of assistance, except in rare cases, seldom
require assistance. The really valuable men of the race never do,
except in case of accident or sudden change. Every one has, of course,
cases of individuals brought to his own knowledge where temporary
assistance can do genuine good, and these he will not overlook. But
the amount which can be wisely given by the individual for individuals is necessarily limited by his lack of knowledge of the circumstances connected with each. He is the only true reformer who is as
careful and as anxious not to aid the unworthy as he is to aid the
worthy, and, perhaps, even more so, for in almsgiving more injury is
probably done by rewarding vice than by relieving virtue. . . .
The best means of benefiting the community is to place within
its reach the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise—free libraries, parks, and means of recreation, by which men are helped in
body and mind; works of art, certain to give pleasure and improve
the public taste; and public institutions of various kinds, which will
improve the general condition of the people; in this manner returning their surplus wealth to the mass of their fellows in the forms
best calculated to do them lasting good.
Thus is the problem of rich and poor to be solved. The laws of
accumulation will be left free, the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee
for the poor, intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased
wealth of the community, but administering it for the community
far better than it could or would have done for itself. The best minds
will thus have reached a stage in the development of the race in
which it is clearly seen that there is no mode of disposing of surplus
wealth creditable to thoughtful and earnest men into whose hands
it flows, save by using it year by year for the general good. This day
already dawns. Men may die without incurring the pity of their fellows, still sharers in great business enterprises from which their capital cannot be or has not been withdrawn, and which is left chiefly at
death for public uses; yet the day is not far distant when the man
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who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which
was free for him to administer during life, will pass away “unwept,
unhonored, and unsung,” no matter to what uses he leaves the dross
which he cannot take with him. Of such as these the public verdict
will then be: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”
Such, in my opinion, is the true gospel concerning wealth, obedience to which is destined some day to solve the problem of the
rich and the poor, and to bring “Peace on earth, among men good
1. Why does Carnegie think it is better to build public institutions than to
give charity to the poor?
2. Why does Carnegie believe that “the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced”?
104. William Graham Sumner on Social
Darwinism (ca. 1880)
Source: Albert G. Keller, ed., The Challenge of Facts and Other Essays by
William Graham Sumner (New Haven, Conn., 1914), pp. 17–27. Keller
concludes that the essay from which this excerpt is taken was written during
the 1880s.
During the Gilded Age, large numbers of businessmen and middle-class
Americans adopted the social outlook known as Social Darwinism. Adherents of this viewpoint borrowed language from Charles Darwin’s great
work On the Origin of Species (1859), which expounded the theory of evolution among plant and animal species, to explain the success and failure of
individual human beings and entire social classes. According to Social
Darwinists, evolution was as natural a process in human society as in
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nature, and government must not interfere. Especially misguided, in this
view, were efforts to uplift those at the bottom of the social order, such
as laws regulating conditions of work or public assistance to the poor.
The era’s most influential Social Darwinist was Yale professor William
Graham Sumner. For Sumner, freedom required frank acceptance of inequality. The growing influence of Social Darwinism helped to popularize a “negative” definition of freedom as limited government and an unrestrained free
market. It also helped to persuade courts, in the name of “liberty of contract,”
to overturn state laws regulating the behavior of corporations.
M a n i s b o r n under the necessity of sustaining the existence he has
received by an onerous struggle against nature, both to win what is
essential to his life and to ward off what is prejudicial to it. He is born
under a burden and a necessity. Nature holds what is essential to him,
but she offers nothing gratuitously. He may win for his use what she
holds, if he can. Only the most meager and inadequate supply for
human needs can be obtained directly from nature. There are trees
which may be used for fuel and for dwellings, but labor is required
to fit them for this use. There are ores in the ground, but labor is necessary to get out the metals and make tools or weapons. For any real
satisfaction, labor is necessary to fit the products of nature for
human use. In this struggle every individual is under the pressure
of the necessities for food, clothing, shelter, fuel, and every individual brings with him more or less energy for the confl ict necessary
to supply his needs. The relation, therefore, between each man’s
needs and each man’s energy, or “individualism,” is the fi rst fact of
human life.
It is not without reason, however, that we speak of a “man” as the
individual in question, for women (mothers) and children have special disabilities for the struggle with nature, and these disabilities
grow greater and last longer as civilization advances. The perpetuation of the race in health and vigor, and its success as a whole in its
struggle to expand and develop human life on earth, therefore,
require that the head of the family shall, by his energy, be able to
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supply not only his own needs, but those of the organisms which
are dependent upon him. The history of the human race shows a
great variety of experiments in the relation of the sexes and in the
organization of the family. These experiments have been controlled
by economic circumstances, but, as man has gained more and more
control over economic circumstances, monogamy and the family
education of children have been more and more sharply developed. If there is one thing in regard to which the student of history
and sociology can affi rm with confidence that social institutions
have made “progress” or grown “better,” it is in this arrangement
of marriage and the family. All experience proves that monogamy,
pure and strict, is the sex relation which conduces most to the
vigor and intelligence of the race, and that the family education of
children is the institution by which the race as a whole advances
most rapidly, from generation to generation, in the struggle with
The constant tendency of population to outstrip the means of
subsistence is the force which has distributed population over the
world, and produced all advance in civilization. To this day the two
means of escape for an overpopulated country are emigration and an
advance in the arts. The former wins more land for the same people;
the latter makes the same land support more persons. If, however,
either of these means opens a chance for an increase of population,
it is evident that the advantage so won may be speedily exhausted if
the increase takes place. The social difficulty has only undergone a
temporary amelioration, and when the conditions of pressure and
competition are renewed, misery and poverty reappear. The victims
of them are those who have inherited disease and depraved appetites,
or have been brought up in vice and ignorance, or have themselves
yielded to vice, extravagance, idleness, and imprudence. In the last
analysis, therefore, we come back to vice, in its original and hereditary forms, as the correlative of misery and poverty.
The condition for the complete and regular action of the force of
competition is liberty. Liberty means the security given to each
007-65853_ch01_vol2_6P.indd 37
10/14/16 9:04 AM
Vo i c e s o f F r e e d o m
man that, if he employs his energies to sustain the struggle on
behalf of himself and those he cares for, he shall dispose of the product exclusively as he chooses. It is impossible to know whence any
definition or criterion of justice can be derived, if it is not deduced
from this view of things; or if it is not the definition of justice that
each shall enjoy the fruit of his own labor and self-denial, and of
injustice that the idle and the industrious, the self-indulgent and
the self-denying, shall share equally in the product.
Private property, also, which we have seen to be a feature of
society orga nized in accordance with the natural conditions of
the struggle for existence produces inequalities between men.
The struggle for existence is aimed against nature. It is from her
niggardly hand that we have to wrest the satisfactions for our needs,
but our fellow-men are our competitors for the meager supply. Competition, therefore, is a law of nature. Nature is entirely neutral; she
submits to him who most energetically and resolutely assails her.
She grants her rewards to the fittest, therefore, without regard to
other considerations of any kind. If, then, there be liberty, men get
from her just in proportion to their works, and their having and
enjoying are just in proportion to their being and their doing. Such
is the system of nature. If we do not like it, and if we try to amend
it, there is only one way in which we can do it. We can take from
the better and give to the worse. We can deflect the penalties of
those who have done ill and throw them on those who have done
better. We can take the rewards from those who have done better
and give them to those who have done worse. We shall thus lessen
the inequalities. We shall favor the survival of the unfittest, and
we shall accomplish this by destroying liberty. Let it be understood that we cannot go outside of this alternative: liberty, inequal ity, survival of the fittest; not-liberty, equality, survival of the
unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best
members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its
worst members.
007-65853_ch01_vol2_6P.indd 38
10/14/16 9:04 AM
America’s Gilded Age, 1870–1890
What we mean by liberty is civil liberty, or liberty under law; and
this means the guarantees of law that a man shall not be interfered
with while using his own powers for his own welfare. It is, therefore,
a civil and political status; and that nation has the freest institutions
in which the guarantees of peace for the laborer and security for the
capitalist are the highest. Liberty, therefore, does not by any means do
away with the struggle for existence. We might as well try to do away
with the need of eating, for that would, in effect, be the same thing.
What civil liberty does is to turn the competition of man with man
from violence and brute force into an industrial competition under
which men vie with one another for the acquisition of material goods
by industry, energy, skill, frugality, prudence, temperance, and other
industrial virtues. Under this changed order of things the inequalities are not done away with. Nature still grants her rewards of having
and enjoying, according to our being and doing, but it is now the man
of the highest training and not the man of the heaviest fist who gains
the highest reward. It is impossible that the man with capital and the
man without capital should be equal. To affirm that they are equal
would be to say that a man who has no tool can get as much food out
of the ground as the man who has a spade or a plough; or that the man
who has no weapon can defend himself as well against hostile beasts
or hostile men as the man who has a weapon. If that were so, none of
us would work any more. We work and deny ourselves to get capital,
just because, other things being equal, the man who has it is superior,
for attaining all the ends of life, to the man who has it not.
1. How does Sumner differentiate between the “natural” roles of men and
women in society?
2. How does he explain the existence of poverty and social ine…

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