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قراءة كتاب Modern Industrialism and the Negroes of the United States The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 12

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Modern Industrialism and the Negroes of the United States
The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 12

Modern Industrialism and the Negroes of the United States The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 12

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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Occasional Papers, No. 12.

The American Negro Academy.



Modern Industrialism and
the Negroes of the United States





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What is that tremendous system of production, organization and struggle known as modern industrialism going to do with the Negroes of the United States? Passing into its huge hopper and between its upper and nether millstones, are they to come out grist for the nation, or mere chaff, doomed like the Indian to ultimate extinction in the raging fires of racial and industrial rivalry and progress? Sphinx’s riddle, say you, which yet awaits its Oedipus? Perhaps, though an examination of the past may show us that the riddle is not awaiting its Oedipus so much as his answer, which he has been writing slowly, word by word, and inexorably, in the social evolution of the republic for a century, and is writing still. If we succeed in reading aright what has already been inscribed by that iron pen, may we not guess the remainder, and so catch from afar the fateful answer? Possibly. Then let us try.

With unequaled sagacity the founders of the American Republic reared, without prototype or precedent, its solid walls and stately columns on the broad basis of human equality, and of certain inalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to which they declared all men entitled. Deep they sunk their foundation piles on the consent of the governed, and committed fearlessly, sublimely, the new state to the people. But there was an exception, and on this exception hangs our tale, and turns the dark drama of our national history.

Those founders had to deal with many novel and perplexing problems of construction, but none seemed so difficult to handle as were those which grew out of the presence of African slavery, as an industrial system, in several of the States. At the threshold of national existence these men were constrained by circumstances to make an exception to the primary principles which they had placed at the bottom of their untried and bold experiment in popular government. This sacrifice of fundamental truth carried along with it one of the sternest retributions of history. For it involved the admission on equal footing into the Union of a fundamental error in ethics and economics, with which our new industrial democracy was forced presently to engage in deadly strife for existence and survivorship.

The American fathers were, undoubtedly, aware of the misfortune of admitting under one general government, and on terms of equality, two mutually invasive and destructive social ideas and their corresponding systems of labor. But they were baffled at the time by what appeared to be a political necessity, and so met the grand emergency of the age by concession and a spirit of conciliation. Many of them, indeed, desired on economic as well as on moral grounds the abolition of slavery, and probably felt the more disposed to compromise with the evil in the general confidence with which they regarded its early and ultimate extinction.

This humane expectation of the young republic failed of realization, owing primarily and chiefly, I think, to the potent influence upon the institution of slavery of certain labor-saving inventions and their industrial application in England and America during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. These epoch-making inventions were the spinning jenny of Hargreaves, the spinning machine of Arkwright and the mule of Crompton, in combination with the steam engine, which turned, says John Richard Green, “Lancastershire into a hive of industry.” And last, though not least in its direct and indirect effects on slavery, was the cotton gin of Eli Whitney, which formed the other half—the other hand, so to speak—of the spinning frame. The new power loom in England created a growing demand for raw cotton, which the American contrivance enabled the Southern planter to meet with an increased supply of the same. Together these inventions operated naturally to enhance the value of slave labor and slave land, and therein conduced powerfully to the slave revival in the United States, which followed their introduction into the economic world. The slave industrial system, no longer then a declining factor in the life of the young nation, assumed, instead, unexpected importance in it, and started promptly upon a course of extraordinary expansion and prosperity.

Two other circumstances combined with the one just mentioned to produce this unexpected and deplorable result. They were the slave compromises of the Constitution and the early territorial expansion of the republic southward. These compromises gathered the reviving slave system, as it were, under the wings of the general government, and so tempered the adverse forces with which it had to struggle for existence within the Union to its tender condition. They embraced the right to import Negroes into the United States, as slaves, until the year 1808, which operated to satisfy, in part, the rising demand of the South for slave labor; also the right to recover fugitive slaves in any part of the country, which added immensely to the security of this species of property, and the right of the slave-holding States, under the three-fifths rule of representation in the lower house of Congress, to count five slaves as three freemen, which rule, taken in conjunction with the equality of State representation in the upper branch of that body, gave to that section an immediate and controlling influence upon federal policy and legislation.

The territorial expansion of the republic southward coincided curiously in point of time with the territorial needs of the slave system incident to its industrial revival. Increased demand for the products of slave labor in the market of the world had, by the action of natural causes, raised the demand for that labor in the South. This increased demand was satisfied, to a limited extent, by the Constitutional provision relative to the importation of that labor into the United States prior to the year 1808, and to an unlimited extent by the peculiar Southern industry of slave breeding, and the domestic slave trade, which, owing to favorable economic conditions, became presently great and thriving enterprises for the production of wealth. The crop of slaves grew in time to be as valuable as the crop of cotton, and the slave section waxed, in consequence, rich and prosperous apace. But as our expanding slave system was essentially agricultural, it required large and expanding areas within which to operate efficiently. Wherefore there arose early in the slave-holding section an industrial demand for more slave soil. There was a political reason, also, which intensified this demand for more slave soil, but as it was merely incidental to the economic cause, I will leave it undiscussed for the present. This economic demand of the expanding slave system for more land was met by the opportune cession to the United States by Georgia and North Carolina of the southwest region, out of which the States of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee were subsequently carved, and by the acquisition of the Louisiana and the Florida territories. So much for the causes, conditions and circumstances in the early history of the republic, which combined to revive slavery, and to make it an immensely important factor in American industrial life, and consequently an immensely important factor in American political life as well.

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