In his remarkable book "Democracy and Reaction" Mr. Hobhouse draws our attention to a far-reaching reaction in the temper of the times which has, during the last sixty years, gradually penetrated every department of thought and life. He illustrates this by the changed attitude towards slavery which he asserts is partly traceable to want of concrete acquaintance with the thing itself; our fathers and grandfathers were nearer to it as they were nearer to many other political abuses; the principles of reform to which they appealed had a very real meaning to them in their struggles, just as at the present day personal liberty means more to a Russian than to an Englishman who has never known what it was to be without it, and he concludes that "Many principles which they established we have let slip merely for want of imagination enough to realize what the denial of such principles would mean in practice".
Although our very prosperity and political tranquility were achieved through the efforts of the previous generation of reformers, it is our mood to accept their work with a nod of recognition for its sacrifices but with no sense of obligation to carry on the strenuous task. Does our mood repeat that world-wide yielding to race antagonism, or does it partake of the growing self assertion of the so-called "superior" races who exact labor and taxes from black and yellow men with the easy explanation of "manifest destiny". [page 2]
Scrutiny of reactionary developments are, of course, valuable only as they indicate possible ways of escape, otherwise they were best left untouched. But is it not possible at this fiftieth anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, that most compelling and far-reaching document of democracy, to seriously test our national trend, using as a touchstone our attitude towards those whose freedom was achieved with such an expenditure of moral energy and devotion.
What have we done to bring to the status of full citizenship the more than three million people Lincoln's proclamation raised from the conditions of slavery, who were enabled at once to legitimatize family life and to make contracts, but who inevitably looked forward to the civil and political rights implied in the great document. How far are we responsible that their civil rights are often rendered futile, their political action curtailed or frustrated, their equality before the law denied in fact, business and industrial opportunities withheld from them and, above all, that for twenty-five years they have been exposed to the black horrors of lynching? How far has the Act of the great Emancipator been nullified by our national indifference?
It would be difficult to state just when the tide of indifference set in but certainly we would all admit that the attitude both in the north and south towards colored men has been responsible for strange inhibitions and limitations operating on the spirits of the entire white population. [page 3] If we would carefully study the souls of white folks to discover the cause of this spiritual bondage, it would not be difficult to find in the south a loyalty to a lost cause, to those who died in its behalf and to those who surviving suffered and dedicated all to it, the necessity for admitting that those who thus died or suffered were <would appear to be> in the wrong, which in itself tends to confuse <the issue whenever> with the demand of the negro for <demands> political equality. Memories of a caste relationship which permitted great intimacy but perpetuated differences in opportunity, blind whole communities to the inconsistencies practiced in many parts of the South today. Whenever Southern men thoughtlessly brand every black man as a menace to the virtue of white women, they forget the loyal protection given by black men to white women and children during the war while they, the white men, were striving to perpetuate a system involving the continuance of negro slavery. Conditions of the shameful carpet-bagger and the corrupt political practices after the war are still used by the young South to justify a similar system of political corruption and oppression toward those whom the Northerner so unwisely befriended. These, among other things, account for the treatment of the blacks by the white South when education, economic opportunity, civil rights, personal justice and political capacity are often successfully, and apparently conscientiously, denied to the negro.
But what of the white North who, ignoring the glory of their inheritance, careless of the principles for which the war was fought at such terrible cost, submit their spirits [page 4 missing]