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Analytical Essay

Write a 750-word response to the following prompt:

How did the role of the federal government in American life change between World War I

and World War II (c. 1919-1941)? Who were the key players in this transition, and what

were the key events? How might we understand and describe the shifting role of the

federal government across time? How were the activities of the federal government

related to the expansion or limitation of American freedom?

In formulating your answer, choose three different individuals/groups that we have

discussed in the middle section of the course (modules 6-9). Explain how each of them

defined, explained, and imagined the proper place of the federal government in American

economics, culture, and society. You should also compare these contrasting views of the

role of government. What were the points of agreement and disagreement? Could

multiple perspectives coexist, or were they mutually exclusive?

Be as specific as possible, and be sure to use the assigned readings to defend your

answer.

Answers that are too short or too long (more than 50 words in either direction) will lose points.

Your answer must quote and cite at least three different documents from the required reading

for Modules 6 through 9. Documents from other modules do not count for the purposes of this

assignment.

Your answer will be checked for plagiarism using Turn-It-In.

Your answer should be based on material covered in class lectures and in the assigned reading

for this course. DO NOT CONSULT OTHER SOURCES. I do not want to know what Google

tells you about this topic. All the information you need to answer this question can be found in

the assigned reading and in your class notes.

Some tips on formatting and length:

750 words is not much! It’s about three double spaced pages (1” margins, 12 point font).

Be brief, especially in your introductory paragraph. Get right to your argument, don’t

waste words describing everything we’ve covered in the course. There’s no need to make

sweeping statements like “Since the beginning of U.S. history….”

The prompt asks several different (but closely related) questions. You do not need to

answer each and every one of them, but you should try to address most of them (at least

in passing) in your essay.

Suggested format:

o 75 words: Introductory paragraph that ends with a clear thesis statement (that

is, your argument and your answer to the question asked in the prompt)

200 words: body paragraph 1, which should contain your first example and a

quotation from your first document.

o 200 words: body paragraph 2, which should contain your second example and a

quotation from your second document. A transition paragraph between paragraphs

should address the similarities/differences between your first and second example.

o 200 words: body paragraph 3, which should contain your third example and a

quotation from your third document. A transition paragraph between paragraphs

should address the similarities/differences between this example and your first

two examples.

o 75 words: a concluding paragraph that compares your three examples and

reiterates (not word-for-word!) your thesis from the introduction.

You MUST introduce and contextualize your quotes. We’ve read dozens of documents this term.

You must tell your reader what document you’re quoting.

GOOD: Southern African Americans had their own definition of freedom. “We claim

freedom as our natural right,” black residents of Nashville stated in a petition, “and ask

that in harmony and co-operation with the nation at large, you should cut up the roots the

system of slavery.” As these petitioners noted, the work of freedom remained

incomplete, even after emancipation.

BAD: Southern African Americans had their own definition of 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 the roots the system of slavery.”

The second example is extraordinarily confusing for your reader. Who are you quoting? Are

these your words? Introduce your quotes, and then explain them in your own words.

You should also try to avoid extended quotations. In almost all circumstances, you shouldn’t be

quoting more than one or two sentences at a time. When you’re trying to quote a longer passage,

intersperse your own words as necessary. When I see paragraph-length citations I start to worry

that you’re just trying to fill up space…

Historians use Chicago Manual of Style, Humanities format. Use footnotes, not parenthetical/in-

text citations.

Cite the documents from Eric Foner’s Voices of Freedom as follows:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Home Life,” in Eric Foner, ed. Voices of Freedom, Vol. 2, 6th

Edition (New York: W.W. Norton, 2020), 14-17.

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Contents
1. Preface
2. 15: “What is Freedom?”: Reconstruction, 1865–1877
1. 96. Petition of Black Residents of Nashville (1865)
2. 97. Petition of Committee on Behalf of the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson (1865)
3. 98. The Mississippi Black Code (1865)
4. 99. A Sharecropping Contract (1866)
5. 100. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Home Life” (ca. 1875)
6. 101. Frederick Douglass, “The Composite Nation” (1869)
7. 102. Robert B. Elliott on Civil Rights (1874)
3. 16: America’s Gilded Age, 1870–1890
1. 103. Jorgen and Otto Jorgensen, Homesteading in Montana (1908)
2. 104. Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth (1889)
3. 105. William Graham Sumner on Social Darwinism (ca. 1880)
4. 106. A Second Declaration of Independence (1879)
5. 107. Henry George, Progress and Poverty (1879)
6. 108. Chief Joseph, “Let Me Be a Free Man” (1879)
7. 109. Saum Song Bo, Chinese-American Protest (1885)
8. 110. Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel (1912)
4. 17: Freedom’s Boundaries, at Home and Abroad, 1890–1900
1. 111. The Populist Platform (1892)
2. 112. William Birney, “Deporting Mohammedans” (1897)
3. 113. W. E. B. Du Bois, “Your Country?” (1903)
4. 114. Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice (ca. 1892)
5. 115. Frances E. Willard, Women and Temperance (1883)
6. 116. Josiah Strong, Our Country (1885)
7. 117. Emilio Aguinaldo on American Imperialism in the Philippines (1899)
5. 18: The Progressive Era, 1900–1916
1. 118. Manuel Gamio on a Mexican-American Family and American Freedom (ca. 1926)
2. 119. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898)
3. 120. John A. Ryan, A Living Wage (1912)
4. 121. The Industrial Workers of the World and the Free Speech Fights (1909)
5. 122. Margaret Sanger on “Free Motherhood,” from Woman and the New Race (1920)
6. 123. Mary Church Terrell, “What It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United
States” (1906)
7. 124. Woodrow Wilson and the New Freedom (1912)
8. 125. John Mitchell, Industrial Liberty (1910)
6. 19: Safe for Democracy: The United States and World War I, 1916–1920
1. 126. Woodrow Wilson, A World “Safe for Democracy” (1917)
2. 127. Randolph Bourne, “Trans-National America” (1916)
3. 128. A Critique of the Versailles Peace Conference (1919)
4. 129. Carrie Chapman Catt, Address to Congress on Woman’s Suffrage (1917)
5. 130. Eugene V. Debs, Speech to the Jury (1918)
6. 131. Rubie Bond, “The Great Migration” (1917)
7. 132. Marcus Garvey on Africa for the Africans (1921)
8. 133. John A. Fitch on the Great Steel Strike (1919)
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7. 20: From Business Culture to Great Depression: The Twenties, 1920–1932
1. 134. Immigration Quotas under the Johnson-Reed Act (1924)
2. 135. Mrs. W. C. Lathrop, New Freedom in the Home (1921)
3. 136. The Fight for Civil Liberties (1921)
4. 137. Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s Last Statement in Court (1927)
5. 138. Congress Debates Immigration (1921)
6. 139. Justice James Clark McReynolds, Meyer v. Nebraska and the Meaning of Liberty
(1923)
7. 140. Alain Locke, The New Negro (1925)
8. 141. Elsie Hill and Florence Kelley Debate the Equal Rights Amendment (1922)
8. 21: The New Deal, 1932–1940
1. 142. Letter to Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (1937)
2. 143. John Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies (1936)
3. 144. John L. Lewis on Labor’s Great Upheaval (1937)
4. 145. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Greater Security for the Average Man” (1934)
5. 146. Herbert Hoover on the New Deal and Liberty (1936)
6. 147. Norman Cousins, “Will Women Lose Their Jobs?” (1939)
7. 148. Frank H. Hill on the Indian New Deal (1935)
8. 149. W. E. B. Du Bois, “A Negro Nation within a Nation” (1935)
9. 22: Fighting for the Four Freedoms World War II, 1941–1945
1. 150. Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Four Freedoms (1941)
2. 151. Will Durant, “Freedom of Worship” (1943)
3. 152. Henry R. Luce, “The American Century” (1941)
4. 153. Henry A. Wallace on “The Century of the Common Man” (1942)
5. 154. Judge Learned Hand, The Spirit of Liberty (1944)
6. 155. World War II and Mexican-Americans (1945)
7. 156. Charles H. Wesley on African-Americans and the Four Freedoms (1944)
8. 157. Justice Robert A. Jackson, Dissent in Korematsu v. United States (1944)
10. 23: The United States and the Cold War, 1945–1953
1. 158. Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (1945)
2. 159. The Truman Doctrine (1947)
3. 160. Daniel L. Schorr, “Reconverting Mexican Americans” (1946)
4. 161. Walter Lippmann, A Critique of Containment (1947)
5. 162. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
6. 163. President’s Commission on Civil Rights, To Secure These Rights (1947)
7. 164. Joseph R. McCarthy on the Attack (1950)
8. 165. Margaret Chase Smith, Declaration of Conscience (1950)
9. 166. Oscar Handlin, “The Immigration Fight Has Only Begun” (1952)
11. 24: An Affluent Society, 1953–1960
1. 167. Richard M. Nixon, “What Freedom Means to Us” (1959)
2. 168. Clark Kerr, Freedom in Industrial Society (1960)
3. 169. The Southern Manifesto (1956)
4. 170. Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962)
5. 171. C. Wright Mills on “Cheerful Robots” (1959)
6. 172. Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” (1955)
7. 173. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955)
12. 25: The Sixties, 1960–1968
1. 174. John F. Kennedy, Speech on Civil Rights (1963)
2. 175. Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” (1964)
3. 176. Barry Goldwater on “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty” (1964)
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4. 177. Chief Justice Earl Warren, Opinion of the Court in Loving v. Virginia (1967)
5. 178. The Port Huron Statement (1962)
6. 179. Paul Potter on the Antiwar Movement (1965)
7. 180. The National Organization for Women (1966)
8. 181. César Chavez, “Letter from Delano” (1969)
9. 182. The International 1968 (1968)
13. 26: The Conservative Turn, 1969–1988
1. 183. Brochure on the Equal Rights Amendment (1970s)
2. 184. Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle (1971)
3. 185. Richard E. Blakemore on The Sagebrush Rebellion (1979)
4. 186. Jimmy Carter on Human Rights (1977)
5. 187. Jerry Falwell, Listen, America! (1980)
6. 188. Phyllis Schlafly, “The Fraud of the Equal Rights Amendment” (1972)
7. 189. James Watt, “Environmentalists: A Threat to the Ecology of the West” (1978)
8. 190. Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address (1981)
14. 27: From Triumph to Tragedy, 1989–2004
1. 191. Pat Buchanan, Speech to the Republican National Convention (1992)
2. 192. Bill Clinton, Speech on Signing of NAFTA (1993)
3. 193. Declaration for Global Democracy (1999)
4. 194. The Beijing Declaration on Women (1995)
5. 195. Jaula de Oro (Cage of Gold), by Los Tigres del Norte (Tigers of the North) (1984)
6. 196. Robert Byrd on the War in Iraq (2003)
15. 28: A Divided Nation
1. 197. Second Inaugural Address of George W. Bush (2005)
2. 198. Archbishop Roger Mahoney, “Called by God to Help” (2006)
3. 199. Justice Anthony Kennedy, Opinion of the Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)
4. 200. Security, Liberty, and the War on Terror (2008)
5. 201. Barack Obama, Eulogy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (2015)
6. 202. Khizr Khan, Speech at the Democratic National Convention (2016)
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Preface
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 sixth edition of Voices of Freedom is organized in chapters
that correspond to those in the sixth 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 fifth 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 like the American
Revolution, the Civil War, and the Cold 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 different
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—for example, 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 particular 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 right of
gay Americans to marry one another.
I have been particularly attentive to how battles at the boundaries of freedom—the efforts of racial
minorities, women, and others to secure greater freedom—have deepened and transformed the
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concept and extended it into new realms. In addition, in this sixth edition I have included a number
of new documents that illustrate how the very definition of American identity—answers to the
question “Who is an American?”—have affected the evolution of the idea of freedom. These include
Benjamin Franklin’s argument in 1751 for restricting immigration to English men and women; J.
Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’s observations at the time of the War of Independence on the
emergence of the American, a “new man,” from the diverse peoples of European descent in the new
nation; Frederick Douglass’s remarkable “Composite Nation” speech soon after the Civil War;
Randolph Bourne’s 1916 essay “Trans-National America”; and historian Oscar Handlin’s critique of
the law adopted in 1924 that severely restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe.
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 a 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 Voices of Freedom and to justify their choices with historical
arguments. Some of the documents are 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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CHAPTER 15
“What Is Freedom?”: Reconstruction,
1865–1877
1. 96. Petition of Black Residents of Nashville (1865)
2. 97. Petition of Committee on Behalf of the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson (1865)
3. 98. The Mississippi Black Code (1865)
4. 99. A Sharecropping Contract (1866)
5. 100. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Home Life” (ca. 1875)
6. 101. Frederick Douglass, “The Composite Nation” (1869)
7. 102. Robert B. Elliott on Civil Rights (1874)
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96. Petition of Black Residents of
Nashville (1865)
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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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.
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 lessn 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
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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 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.
12
Questions
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?
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97. 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, ser. 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.
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 affirmed 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
Reconstruction.
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 (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
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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
Committee
Ishmael Moultrie.
yates. Sampson
15
Questions
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?
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98. The Mississippi Black Code (1865)
Source: Walter L. Fleming, ed., Documentary History of Reconstruction (Cleveland, 1906–07),
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.
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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, 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 taxpayer to any one who will pay the said tax, with accruing costs, giving preference to the employer, if
there be one.
18
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.
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 sixty-six 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, 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 service of the employer before the
expiration of his term of service, 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
19
employer any freedman, free negro, or mulatto who shall have quit the service of his or her employer
before the expiration of his or her term of service 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.
20
CERTAIN OFFENSES OF FREEDMEN
Sec. 1. . . . That no freedman, free negro or mulatto, not in the military service 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 function 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.
21
Questions
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?
22
99. A Sharecropping Contract (1866)
Source: Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Tennessee, Bureau of Refugees,
Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, National Archives.
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.
THOMAS J. ROSS 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, carrying 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 furnish 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
23
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
24
Questions
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?
25
100. 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 ARE IN 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 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
26
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 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 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
27
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!!
28
Questions
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?
29
101. 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. 217–30.
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.
THERE WAS 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 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 country.
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,
30
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
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
hatred.
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.
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 dead.
31
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 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 particular 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 fifths 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 exclude all other races
32
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.
33
Questions
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?
34
102. 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.”
SIR, IT IS 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—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
35
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 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 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
36
universal liberty, laid the foundation stones.
37
Questions
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?
38
CHAPTER 16
America’s Gilded Age, 1870–1890
1. 103. Jorgen and Otto Jorgensen, Homesteading in Montana (1908)
2. 104. Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth (1889)
3. 105. William Graham Sumner on Social Darwinism (ca. 1880)
4. 106. A Second Declaration of Independence (1879)
5. 107. Henry George, Progress and Poverty (1879)
6. 108. Chief Joseph, “Let Me Be a Free Man” (1879)
7. 109. Saum Song Bo, Chinese-American Protest (1885)
8. 110. Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel (1912)
39
103. Jorgen and Otto Jorgensen,
Homesteading in Montana (1908)
Source: Jorgen and Otto Jorgensen, “Boyhood Recollections: A Narrative of Homestead Days in
Northeastern Montana,” Jorgen Jorgensen family papers, 1921–1938, Small Collection 178,
Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives. Reprinted with permission.
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
popular lore celebrated the lone pioneer settler, the Jorgensens’ experience illustrates the fact that
many homesteaders went West as parts of communities, often organized on an ethnic basis.
[JORGEN:] ONE WOULD 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 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 started.
40
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 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 finished, 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 10year-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—everything 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.
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
fifty 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.
41
Questions
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 past”?
42
104. Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of
Wealth (1889)
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.
THE PROBLEM OF 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 progress 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.
43
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 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 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 will.”
44
Questions
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”?
45
105. 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 undated 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 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.
MAN IS BORN 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 conflict necessary to supply his needs. The relation, therefore, between each
man’s needs and each man’s energy, or “individualism,” is the first 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 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
46
and sociology can affirm 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 nature.
• • •
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 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 organized 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, inequality, 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.
• • •
What we mean by liberty is civil liberty, or liberty under law; and this means the guarantees of law
47
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.
• • •
48
Questions
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 inequality?
49
106. A Second Declaration of
Independence (1879)
Source: Philip S. Foner, We the Other People (Urbana, 1976), pp. 117–19.
Not all Americans adhered to the Social Darwinist definition of liberty as frank acceptance of social
inequality in an unregulated market. During the Gilded Age, the labor movement presented a very
different understanding of freedom. It offered a wide array of programs, from public employment in
hard times to currency reform, anarchism, socialism, and the creation of a vaguely defined
“cooperative commonwealth.” All these ideas arose from the conviction that social conditions in the
1870s and 1880s needed drastic change. One of the most popular demands was for legislation
establishing eight hours as a legal day’s work. In 1879, Ira Steward, a prominent union leader,
drafted a revised version of the Declaration of Independence for a Fourth of July labor picnic in
Chicago. He insisted that higher wages and greater leisure time would enable workers to develop
new desires, thereby increasing demand for goods and benefiting manufacturers, laborers, and
society at large. Steward’s program illustrates how, in the aftermath of the Civil War, reformers of all
kinds increasingly looked to the government to bring about social change. It also reveals a new sense
of identification between American workers and their counterparts overseas.
RESOLVED, THAT THE practical question for an American Fourth of July is not between freedom and
slavery, but between wealth and poverty. For if it is true that laborers ought to have as little as
possible of the wealth they produce, South Carolina slaveholders were right and the Massachusetts
abolitionists were wrong. Because, when the working classes are denied everything but the barest
necessities of life, they have no decent use for liberty. . . .
Slavery is . . . the child of poverty, instead of poverty the child of slavery: and freedom is the child of
wealth, instead of wealth the child of freedom. The only road, therefore, to universal freedom is the
road that leads to universal wealth.
Resolved, That while the Fourth of July was heralded a hundred years ago in the name of Liberty, we
now herald this day in behalf of the great economic measure of Eight Hours, or shorter day’s work
for wageworkers everywhere . . . because more leisure, rest and thought will cultivate habits,
customs, and expenditures that mean higher wages: and the world’s highest paid laborers now
furnish each other with vastly more occupations or days’ work than the lowest paid workers can give
to one another. . . . If the worker’s power to buy increases with his power to do, granaries and
warehouses will empty their pockets, and farms and factories fill up with producers. . . .
And we call to the workers of the whole civilized world, especially those of France, Germany, and
Great Britain, to join hands with the laborers of the United States in this mighty movement. . . .
Thus shall eight hours prevail; earnings and days’ work, wealth, and business prosperity increase,
financial reverses be made impossible, and the whole human race emancipated . . . from the capitalist
despotism which is made possible and necessary by the poverty of the most of mankind.
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On the . . . issue of eight hours, therefore, or less hours, we join hands with all, regardless of politics,
nationality, color, religion, or sex; knowing no friends or foes except as they aid or oppose this longpostponed and world-wide movement.
And for the soundness of our political economy, as well as the rectitude of our intentions, we
confidently and gladly appeal to the wiser statesmanship of the civilized world.
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Questions
1. Why does this declaration appeal to other countries for support?
2. What benefits does the declaration claim will come from shortening the hours of work and
increasing wages?
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107. Henry George, Progress and Poverty
(1879)
Source: Henry George, Progress and Poverty [1879] (New York, 1884), pp. 489–96.
Dissatisfaction with social conditions in the Gilded Age extended well beyond aggrieved workers.
Alarmed by fear of class warfare and the growing power of concentrated wealth, social thinkers
offered numerous plans for change. Among the most influential was Henry George, whose Progress
and Poverty became one of the era’s great best-sellers. Its extraordinary success testified to what
George called “a wide-spread consciousness . . . that there is something radically wrong in the
present social organization.”
George’s book began with a famous statement of “the problem” suggested by its title—the expansion
of poverty alongside material progress. His solution was the “single tax,” which would replace other
taxes with a levy on increases in the value of real estate. The single tax would be so high that it
would prevent speculation in both urban and rural land, and land would then become available to
aspiring businessmen and urban working men seeking to become farmers. Whether or not they
believed in George’s solution, millions of readers responded to his clear explanation of economic
relationships and his stirring account of how the “unjust and unequal distribution of wealth” long
thought to be confined to the Old World had made its appearance in the New.
THE EVILS ARISING from the unjust and unequal distribution of wealth, which are becoming more and
more apparent as modern civilization goes on, are not incidents of progress, but tendencies which
must bring progress to a halt; that they will not cure themselves, but, on the contrary, must, unless
their cause is removed, grow greater and greater, until they sweep us back into barbarism by the road
every previous civilization has trod. But it also shows that these evils are not imposed by natural
laws; that they spring solely from social mal-adjustments which ignore natural laws, and that in
removing their cause we shall be giving an enormous impetus to progress.
The poverty which in the midst of abundance, pinches and embrutes men, and all the manifold evils
which flow from it, spring from a denial of justice. In permitting the monopolization of the natural
opportunities which nature freely offers to all, we have ignored the fundamental law of justice—for
so far as we can see, when we view things upon a large scale, justice seems to be the supreme law of
the universe. But by sweeping away this injustice and asserting the rights of all men to natural
opportunities, we shall conform ourselves to the law—we shall remove the great cause of unnatural
inequality in the distribution of wealth and power; we shall abolish poverty; tame the ruthless
passions of greed; dry up the springs of vice and misery; light in dark places the lamp of knowledge;
give new vigor to invention and a fresh impulse to discovery; substitute political strength for political
weakness; and make tyranny and anarchy impossible.
The reform I have proposed accords with all that is politically, socially, or morally desirable. It has
the qualities of a true reform, for it will make all other reforms easier. What is it but the carrying out
in letter and spirit of the truth enunciated in the Declaration of Independence—the “self-evident”
truth that is the heart and soul of the Declaration—“That all men are created equal; that they are
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endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among them are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness!”
These rights are denied when the equal right to land—on which and by which men alone can live—is
denied. Equality of political rights will not compensate for the d…
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