Skip to main content

Full text of "The South and the national government"

See other formats

The South and the 
National Government 


The Honorable William Howard Taft 

President-elect o( the United States 

The South and 
the National Government 


The Honorable William Howard Taft 

President-elect of the United States 

An Address 

Delivered at the Dinner of the North Carolina Society 
of New York, at the Hotel Astor, December 7, I 9° 8 

Digitized by 

the Internet Archive 

in 2014 


The speech of the President- Elect at the recent annual ban- 
quet of the North Carolina Society, New York, found a warm 
response in the hearts of the Northern people, who have not 
failed to sympathize deeply with their Southern fellow citizens 
during their long years of affliction. 

The orator expresses our feelings with rare felicity, and so 
keenly did his sentiments touch our hearts, it was resolved to 
publish his address and send -it to our fellow citizens of the 
South as the messenger of peace and perfect reunion from 
their Northern countrymen. 

Our Southern friends will note that no phase of the present 
unfortunate situation is neglected by Mr. Taft; all are dealt 
with in a clear and masterly manner. The North, as well as the 
South is enlightened as to their respective duties toward bring- 
ing about the desirable return of the South to its normal con- 
dition politically, so that American citizens in all sections of our 
common country will again belong to both of the great political 
parties, thus proving to the world that both parties command 
the allegiance of good citizens in all parts of the country 
who are desirous only for what they believe to be best for the 
good of the nation as a whole. 

The future President of our common country, North, South, 
East, and West, who appeals to us, is a man of large heart, 
warm sympathies, and cool brain, of sound judgment and lofty 
purpose, who has at heart as one of the greatest possible tri- 
umphs of his administration the restoration of normal political 
conditions in the South. Under his wise and sympathetic 
leadership the writer is sanguine of success — certain of it if 
the influential people of all sections give him the support he 
so richly deserves in this truly patriotic mission. 

Andrew Carnegie. 


The Solid South 



At the Dinner of the North Carolina Society of 
New York, at the Hotel Astor. December 7, 1908 

Here, if nowhere else, we leave political parties and pref- 
erences alone. But here, as everywhere else, we are patriotic 
men; and we North Carolinians have as our background a 
community that from the first showed a singularly independent 
temper. A freedom of opinion is our heritage. We once 
drove a Colonial Governor who disputed our freedom of 
political action to the safer shelter of the Colony of New York; 
and throughout our history we have shown a sort of passion 
for independent action, in spite of occasional eclipses; and 
that same temper shows itself now. We are, in fact, never sure 
that we are right till half our neighbors have proved that we 
are wrong. 

We are, therefore, and have long been, much distressed by 
the political solidity of the states of Maine, Vermont, New 
Hampshire and Pennsylvania; and we wish that it were broken 
— not for the sake of the Democratic party nor for the sake 
of the Republican party (for the breach would benefit each 
alike) but for the sake of greater freedom of political action 
by our unfortunate fellow citizens who dwell there. Where 
one party has too long and secure power it becomes intolerant 
and the other party falls into contempt. Thus these states 
have become stagnant or corrupt. For the sake of free political 
action we wish that their political solidity might be broken, 
so that the whole conscience and character of their people 
might find full political expression. What constructive influ- 
ence have they, or have they in recent years had, in the nation's 
thought and political progress? 

For the same reasons we have taken an especial pleasure 
in the recent breaking up of Ohio, Minnesota, and Indiana — 
where on the same day presidential electors of one party and 
governors of the other party were chosen; for this breaking 


asunder of party dominance makes both parties tolerant and 
careful, helping them both and showing the utmost freedom 
of political action. And these states contribute much to our 
political life. 

By the same token we rush in where Texas and Virginia fear 
to tread, and we shall welcome the impending and inevitable 
breaking of the Solid South (perhaps we shall lead it), not 
for the sake of the Democratic party nor for the sake of the 
Republican party (although it would help each party equally), 
but for the sake of open-mindedness and of freedom of political 
action, so that all men there may walk by thought and not by 
formulas, and act by convictions and not by traditions. Where- 
ever one party by long power breeds intolerance, the other 
falls into contempt. And what constructive influence have 
the Southern States in our larger political life? From some of 
them, where parties have fallen low, we have seen men go to 
one national convention as a mere unthinking personal follow- 
ing of a candidate even then clad in garments of twofold defeat; 
and to the conventions of the other party we have sometimes 
seen office-holding shepherds with their crooks drive their 
mottled flocks to market. We are tired of this political ineffi- 
ciency, this long isolation, and these continued scandals; and 
we are tired of the conditions that produce them. If parties 
are to be instruments of civilized government, the conditions that 
produce such scandals must cease. We must have in the South 
a Democratic party of tolerance and a Republican party of 
character; and neither party must be ranged on lines of race. 

We aspire to a higher part in the Republic than can be played 
by men of closed minds or of unthinking habits or by organized 
ignorance. We aspire again to a share in the constructive -work 
of the government in these stirring days of great tasks at home 
and growing influence abroad. 

I am leaving party politics severely alone, but I am speaking 
to a national and patriotic theme. A Republican Administra- 
tion or a Democratic Administration is a passing incident in 
our national history. Parties themselves shift and wane. 
And any party's supremacy is of little moment in comparison 
with the isolation of a large part of the Union from its proper 
political inlluence. 

The manhood and the energy and the ambition of Southern 
men now find effective political expression through neither 
party. The South, therefore, neither contributes to the Nation's 
political thought and inlluence nor receives stimulation from 


the Nation's thought and influence. Its real patriotism counts 
for nothing — is smothered dumb under party systems that 
have become crimes against the character and the intelligence 
of the people. The South gives nothing and receives nothing 
from the increasing national political achievement of every de- 
cade. Politically it is yet a province; and we are tired of this 
barren seclusion. Men who prefer complaint to achieve- 
ment may regard this as treason: let them make the most of 
it. We prefer a higher station in the Union than New Hamp- 
shire and Vermont and Pennsylvania and Arkansas hold. 

From the first our commonwealth conspicuously stood for 
something greater than any party, something that antedates 
all our parties, that spirit of independence in political judgment 
and action which brought the old thirteen states into being 
and made the Republic possible. And that spirit is not deacl 

If it cannot regain its old-time influence through one party, 
it will regain it through another. 

We are the descendants of men who fashioned parties in 
their beginning; and, if need be, we can refashion them. For 
the aim of government is not to preserve parties but to give range 
to free individual action in a democracy. And it is in this 
spirit of national aspiration that we welcome our distinguished 
guest of honor — a man now placed above parties, and too 
just to regard the Republic by sections, our best equipped 
citizen for the highest office in the world. 

To the President-elect : May his administration mark the 
return oj Southern character and sincerity to its old-time part 
in the constructive work oj government and the end forever of 
political isolation from the achievements and the glory of the 
Union I 


The South and the National 



North Carolina presents an admirable type of the present 
conditions in the South. It offers, therefore, a suitable subject 
for the discussion planned for this evening, and I count it a 
privilege to be present to hear it. One, in any degree responsible 
for the government and welfare of the whole country at this 
time in her history, must take an especial interest in the trend 
of public opinion and the conditions, material and political, 
of the South. 

The laws of the United States have equal operation from the 
Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. Congress has 
representatives from every part of the country, including the 
South, whose votes are recorded upon national legislation. 
Railroads do not break bulk between North and South. Inter- 
state commerce goes on unvexed between the one and the 
other. The Post-office department distributes its mail with 
impartiality on each side of Mason's and Dixon's Line. Pros- 
perity in the North is accompanied by prosperity in the South, 
and a halt in the one means a halt in the other. Northern 
people meet Southern people, and find them friendly and 
charming and full of graceful and grateful companionship. 

What is it that sets the South apart and takes from the 
Southern people the responsibilities which the members of a 
republic ought to share in respect to the conduct of the National 
Government? Why is it that what is done at Washington 
seems to be the work of the North and the West, and not of 
the South? Should this state of affairs continue? These are 
the questions that force themselves on those of us concerned 
with the Government and who are most anxious to have a 


solid, united country, of whose will the course of the Govern- 
ment shall be an intelligent interpretation and expression. 

We can answer these questions as the historian would, and 
we can explain the situation as it is; but I don't think we 
can justify or excuse a continuance of it. Looking back into 
the past, of course, the explanation of the difference between 
the South and the other two sections was in the institution of 
slavery. It is of no purpose to point out that early in the 
history of the country the North was as responsible for bringing 
slaves here as the South. We are not concerned with 
whose fault it was that there was such an institution as slavery. 
Nor are we concerned with the probability that, had the 
Northerners been interested in slaves, they would have viewed 
the institution exactly as the Southerners viewed it and would 
have fought to defend it because as sacred as the institution 
of private property itself. It is sufficient to say, as I think 
we all now realize, that the institution of slavery was a bad 
thing and that it is a good thing to have got rid of it. It 
does n't help in the slightest degree in the present day to stir 
up the embers of the controversy of the past by attempting to 
fix blame on one part of the country or the other, in respect 
to an institution which has gone, and happily gone, on the 
one hand, or in respect to the consequences of that institution 
which we still have with us, on the other. These consequences 
we are to recognize as a condition and a fact, and a problem 
for solution rather than as an occasion for crimination or 

Over the question of the extension of slavery the Civil War 
came, and that contest developed a heroism on both sides, 
in the people from the North and the people from the South, 
that evokes the admiration of all Americans for American 
courage, self-sacrifice, and patriotism. But when slavery was 
abolished by the war the excision of the cancer left a wound 
that must necessarily be a long time in healing. Nearly 5,000,000 
slaves were freed; but 5 per cent, of them could read or write; 
a much smaller percentage were skilled laborers. They were 
but as children in meeting the stern responsibilities of life 
as free men. As such they had to be absorbed into and 
adjusted to our civilization. It was a radical change, full 
of discouragement and obstacles. Their rights were declared 
by the war Amendments, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and 
Fifteenth. The one established their freedom; the second their 
citizenship and their rights to pursue happiness and hold 


property; and the third their right not to be discriminated 
against in their political privileges on account of their color or 
previous condition of servitude. 

I am not going to rehearse the painful history of reconstruc- 
tion, or what followed it. I come at once to the present con- 
dition of things, stated from a constitutional and political 
standpoint. And that is this: That in all the Southern States 
it is possible, by election laws prescribing proper qualifications 
for the suffrage, which square with the Fifteenth Amendment 
and which shall be equally administered as between the black 
and white races, to prevent entirely the possibility of a domina- 
tion of Southern state, county, or municipal governments 
by an ignorant electorate, white or black. It is further true 
that the sooner such laws, when adopted, are applied with exact 
equality and justice to the two races, the better for the moral 
tone of state and community concerned. Negroes should be 
given an opportunity equally with whites, by education and 
thrift, to meet the requirements of eligibility which the State 
Legislatures in their wisdom shall lay down in order to secure 
the safe exercise of the electoral franchise. The Negro should 
ask nothing other than an equal chance to qualify himself for 
the franchise, and when that is granted by law, and not 
denied by executive discrimination, he has nothing to com- 
plain of. 

The proposal to repeal the Fifteenth Amendment is utterly 
impracticable and should be relegated to the limbo of forgotten 
issues. It is very certain that any party founded on the proposi- 
tion would utterly fail in a national canvass. What we are 
considering is something practical, something that means 
attainable progress. It seems to me to follow, therefore, 
that there is, or ought to be, a common ground upon 
which we can all stand in respect to the race question 
in the South, and its political bearing, that takes away any 
justification for maintaining the continued solidity of the 
South to prevent the so-called Negro domination. The fear 
that in some way or other a social equality between the races 
shall be enforced by law or brought about by political measures 
really has no foundation except in the imagination of those who 
fear such a result. The Federal Government has nothing to 
do with social equality. The war amendments do not declare 
in favor of social equality. All that the law or Constitution 
attempt to secure is equality of opportunity before the law and 
in the pursuit of happiness, and in the enjoyment of life, liberty, 


and property. Social- equality is something that grows out of 
voluntary concessions by the individuals forming society. 

With the elimination of the race question, can we say that 
there are removed all the reasons why the people of the South 
are reluctant to give up their political solidarity and divide them- 
selves on party lines in accordance with their economic and 
political views? No. There are other reasons, perhaps only 
reasons of sentiment, but with the Southern people, who are 
a high-strung, sensitive, and outspoken people, considerations 
of sentiment are frequently quite as strong as those of some 
political or economic character. In the first place it is now 
nearly forty years since the South acquired its political solidarity, 
and the intensity of feeling by which it was maintained, and 
the ostracism and social proscription imposed on those white 
Southerners who did not sympathize with the necessity for such 
solidarity, could not but make lasting impression and create 
a permanent bias that would naturally outlast the reason 
for its original existence. The trials of the reconstruction 
period, the heat of the political controversies with the Repub- 
lican party, all naturally, during the forty years, implanted 
so deep a feeling in the Southern Democratic breast that a 
mere change of the conditions under which this feeling was 
engendered could not at once remove it. The Southern people 
are a homogeneous people; they preserve their traditions; 
they are of the purest American stock; and the faith of the 
father is handed down to the son, even after the cause of it has 
ceased, almost as a sacred legacy. 

Again, for a long time succeeding the war, the South con- 
tinued poor. Its development was much slower than that of 
the rest of the country. Prosperity seemed to be Northern 
prosperity, not Southern. And, in such a time, the trials of life 
of the present only accentuated the greater trials of the past, 
and reminiscences of the dreadful sufferings and privations of 
the war were present on every hand, and feelings that the 
controversy had given rise to, remained with an intensity that 
hardly seemed to be dimmed by passing time. 

But times change, and men change with them in any com- 
munity, however fixed its thoughts or habits, and many circum- 
stances have blessed us with their influence in this matter. 

The growth of the South since i8go has been marvelous. 
The manufacturing capital in i'88o was $250,000,000, 
in 1890, $650,000,000, in 1000, $1,150,000,000 and in 
1908, $2,100,000,000, while the value of the manufactures 


increased from $450,000,000, in 1880 to $900,000,000 in 1890. 
to $1,450,000,000 in 1900, and to $2,600,000,000, in 1908. 
The farm products in 1880 were $660,000,000, in 1890 were 
$770,000,000, in 1900, $1,270,000,000, in 1908 $2,220,000,000. 
The exports from the South in 1880 were $260,000,000, 
in 1890 $306,000,000, in 1900, $484,000,000, and in 1908, 

In this marvelous growth the manuiactures of the South 
now exceed the agricultural products, and thus a complete 
change has come over the character of her industries. The 
South has become rich, and only the surface of her wealth 
has been scratched. Her growth has exceeded that of the rest of 
the country, and she is now in every way sharing in its prosperity. 

Again, the Democratic party has not preserved inviolate its 
traditional doctrines as to state's rights and other issues, and 
has for the time adopted new doctrines of possibly doubtful 
economic truth and wisdom. Southern men, adhering to 
the party and the name, find themselves, through the influence 
of tradition and the fear of a restoration of conditions which 
are now impossible, supporting a platform and candidate whose 
political and economic theories they distrust. Under these 
conditions there was in the last campaign, and there is to-day 
throughout the South, among many of its most intelligent 
citizens, an impatience, a nervousness, and a restlessness in 
voting for one ticket and rejoicing in the success of another. 

Now, I am not one of those who are disposed to criticize or 
emphasize the inconsistency of . the position in which these 
gentlemen find themselves. I believe it would be wiser if all 
who sympathize with one party and its principles were to vote 
its ticket, but I can readily understand the weight and inertia 
of the tradition and the social considerations that make them 
hesitate. I believe that the movement away from political 
solidity has started, and ought to be encouraged, and I think 
one way to encourage it is to have the South understand that 
the attitude of the North and the Republican party toward 
it is not one of hostility or criticism or opposition, political 
or otherwise; that they believe in the maintenance of the 
Fifteenth Amendment; but that, as already explained, they 
do not deem that amendment to be inconsistent with the South' s 
obtaining and maintaining what it regards as its political 
safety from domination of an ignorant electorate; that the North 
yearns for closer association with the South; that its citizens 
deprecate that reserve on the subject of politics which so long 


has been maintained in the otherwise delightful social relations 
between Southerners and Northerners as they are more and 
more frequently thrown together. 

In welcoming to a change of party affiliation many Southern- 
ers who have been Democrats, we are brought face to face with 
a delicate situation which we can only meet with frankness and 
justice. In our anxiety to bring the Democratic Southerner 
into new political relations we should have and can have no 
desire to pass by or ignore the comparatively few white South- 
erners who from principle have consistently stood for our views 
in the South when it cost them social ostracism and a loss of 
all prestige. Nor can we sympathize with an effort to exclude 
from the support of Republicanism in the South or to read 
out of the party those colored voters who by their education 
and thrift have made themselves eligible to exercise the 
electoral franchise. 

We believe that the solution of the race question in the South 
is largely a matter of industrial and thorough education. We 
believe that the best friend that the Southern Negro can have 
is the Southern white man, and that the growing interest which 
the Southern white man is taking in the development of the 
Negro is one of the most encouraging reasons for believing the 
problem is capable of solution. The hope of the Southern 
Negro is in teaching him how to be a good farmer, how to be 
a good mechanic; in teaching him how to make his home 
attractive and how to live more comfortably and according to 
the rules of health and morality. 

Some Southerners who have given expression to their thoughts 
seem to think that the only solution of the Negro question is 
his migration to Africa, but to me such a proposition is utterly 
fatuous. The Negro is essential to the South in order that it may 
have proper labor. An attempt of Negroes to migrate from one 
state to another not many years ago led to open violence at 
white instigation to prevent it. More than this, the Negroes 
have now reached 9,000,000 in number. Their ancestors 
were brought here against their will. They have no country 
but this. They know no flag but ours. They wish to live 
under it, and are willing to die for it. They are Americans. 
They are part of our people and are entitled to our every 
effort to make them worthy of their responsibilities as free men 
and as citizens. 

The success of the experiments which have been made with 
them on a large scale in giving them the benefit of thorough 


primary and industrial education, justifies and requires the 
extension of this system as far as possible to reach them all. 

The proposition to increase the supply of labor in the South 
by emigration from Europe, it seems to me, instead of being 
inimical to the cause of the Negro, will aid him. As the indus- 
tries of the South continue to grow in the marvelous ratio already 
shown, the demand for labor must increase. The presence of 
the Southern community of white European labor from the south- 
ern part of Europe will have, I am hopeful, the same effect 
that it has had upon Negro labor on the Isthmus of Panama. It 
has introduced a spirit of emulation or competition, so that 
to-day the tropical Negroes of the West Indies do much better 
work for us in the canal construction since we brought over Span- 
ish, Italian, and Greek laborers. 

Ultimately, of course, the burden of Negro education must 
fall on the Southern people and on Southern property owners. 
Private charity and munificence, except by way of furnishing an 
example and a model, can do comparatively little in this direc- 
tion. It may take some time to hasten the movement for the 
most generous public appropriations for the education of the 
Negro, but the truth that in the uplifting of the Negro lies the 
welfare of the South is forcing itself on the far-sighted of the 
Southern leaders. Primary and industrial education for 
the masses, higher education for the leaders of the Negro race, 
for their professional men, their clergymen, their physicians, 
their lawyers, and their teachers, will make up a system 
under which their improvement, which statistics show to have 
been most noteworthy in the last forty years, will continue at 
the same rate. 

On the whole, then, the best public opinion of the North and 
the best public opinion of the South seem to be coming together 
in respect to all the economic and political questions growing 
out of present race conditions. 

The attitude of the candidate and the platform of the Demo- 
cratic Party in the last election made this campaign a most 
favorable one to bring home to the Southern people for serious 
consideration the query why they should still adhere to political 
solidity in the South. It may be that four years hence the 
candidate and platform of the Democratic Party will more 
approve themselves to the South and to the intelligent men of 
the South. Under these conditions there may seem to be 
a retrograde step, and the South continue solid, but I venture to 
think that the movement now begun will grow, slowly at first, 


but ultimately so as to extend the practical political arena for 
the discussion of party issues into all the Southern States. 

The recent election has made it probable that I shall become 
more or less responsible for the policy of the next Presidential 
Administration, and I improve this opportunity to say that 
nothing would give me greater pride, because nothing would give 
me more claim to the gratitude of my fellow-citizens, than if I 
could so direct that policy in respect to the Southern States as 
to convince its intelligent citizens of the desire of the Administra- 
tion to aid them in working out satisfactorily the serious prob- 
lems before them and of bringing them and their Northern 
fellow-citizens closer and closer in sympathy and point of 
view. During the last decade, in common with all lovers of our 
country, I have watched with delight and thanksgiving the 
bond of union between the two sections grow firmer. I pray 
that it may be given to me to strengthen this movement, to 
obliterate all sectional lines, and leave nothing of difference 
between the North and the South, save a friendly emulation 
for the benefit of our common country.