Volume VI Number 8

Published by The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History

1538 Ninth St., N. W., Washington, D. C.

PURPOSE: To inculcate an appre- ciation of the past of the Negro.


Albert N. D. Brooks Mavis B. Mixon Esther Popel Shaw Annie E. Duncan Wilhelmina M. Crosson Carter G. Woodson Managing Editor

The subscription fee of this paper is $1.00 a year, or 15 cents a copy; bulk subscriptions have been discontinued. Bound volumes, five of which are now available, sell for $2.00 each. Published monthly except July, August and Sep- tember, at 1538 Ninth St., N. W., Wash- ington, D. C.

Entered as second class matter Octo- ber 31, 1937, at the Post Office at Wash- ington, D. C., under the Act of March 3, 1879.


COVER Negroes seeking the Democracy


Necroes Not UNITED FOR DEMOCRACY By C. G. Woodson

THE TAPPAN BROTHERS By Vivian Simmons Lane




By Edward Nelson Palmer


By W. M. Brewer





Tue Necro History BULLETIN


HE Negro is not directing his steps toward democracy. He is at a standstill. The race has no leadership. So far as the Negro has shown leadership it has been quickly destroyed by selfishness. A Negro gaining sufficient support to make an impres- sion on the public soon finds his efforts nullified by whites who finance Negroes to kill him off. The Durham Conference is a case in evidence. Militant Negroes working for democracy had gained a point and were about to score another victory; but Daniels, Dabney, Graves and other white exponents of interracial politics spoke to the contrary for the Negro segregationists and urged the latter to go forth to the fight. These Negroes, to make sure of harmony, called a conference of segregationists from the South only and seceded from the aggressive leadership of the race. They came forth with a declaration that they believe in the same objectives as those of the militant Negro leaders but that these ends should be attained in an- other way. The secessionists, however, offered no program toward liberty and freedom, and they placed themselves in the position of defending segregation, the very antithesis of democracy. There are a few defenders of segregation who are doubtless sin- Although nominally free, they have never been sufficiently enlightened to see the matter other than as slaves. One may cite cases of Negroes who opposed emancipation and denounced the abo- litionists. A few who became free reenslaved themselves. A still larger number made no effort to become free because they did not want to disconnect themselves from their masters, and their kind still object to full freedom.

Ever since the Civil War when Negroes were first given a chance to participate in the management of their affairs they have been inconsistent and compromising. They have tried to gain one thing on one day by insisting on equality for all, while at the same time endeavoring to gain another point the next day by segregation. At one moment Negroes fight for the principle of democracy, and at the very next moment they barter it away for some temporary advantage. You cannot have a thing and dispose of it at the same time.

For example, the Negro political leaders of the reconstruction period clamored for suffrage, for the right to sit in the same legisla- tive halls, to attend the same theatres, and to stay at the same hotels as the whites; but few of them wanted white and colored children to attend the same school. When expressing themselves on education most of them took the position of the segregationists; and Charles Sumner in his fight for the civil rights of the Negro had to eliminate mixed schools from his program not only because many whites

(Continued on page 177)


May, 1943


By Vivian Simmons LANE

N THESE days when democracy and the rights of man espe- cially the Negro man—are being

so stoutly defended, we can do nothing more inspiring for our present hard tasks than review the lives of men who gave American


democracy its strength and flavor. I would therefore like to introduce two neglected but staunch friends of freedom, the Tappan brothers.

Their story begins in a little country village in Massachusetts more than one hundred fifty years ago, and both have birthdays in May. They became prosperous dry- eogods merchants, but they devoted most of their time and money to the alleviation of human suffering. It is but natural then that their hearts were touched by the miser- able lot of the colored Americans who were held in bondage in their beloved country. Once aroused, the Tappan brothers followed the star of their hearts through every danger and difficulty. Mobs threat- ened them and burned their prop- erty. Their former friends and associates turned against them. One of them had a price of $5,000 placed upon his head. But they

toughly faced these storms of hate that would have blown weaker men

away. They answered their adver- saries by increasing their efforts on behalf of the despised slave,

These heroes were Arthur and Lewis Tappan. They were born May 22, 1786, and May 23, 1788, respectively, in Northampton, Mas-

sachusetts, and were scattered among eleven children. Their

mother was Sarah Homes, a niece of Benjamin Franklin. Their father, Benjamin Tappan, carried on the business of a gold- and sil- versmith in Northampton for twen- ty years and then relinquished it to engage in the dry-goods business. He was a very upright man. At- tentive to religious duties, he re- coiled from vice or vicious persons. The other storekeepers in the vil- lage sold spirituous drinks, but he refused to do so.

When Arthur and Lewis were boys they enjoyed life in a country village. They engaged in the usual pranks of healthy boys, and espe- cially loved the beautiful scenery. Following in the footsteps of their father, both boys served as appren- tices in his dry-goods store. Arthur worked in a similar store in Port- land, Maine, and later in Montreal,

Canada. He became a prosperous importer. In the meantime, Lewis, at the age of twenty-one, had

formed a partnership with a Mr. Searle, under the title of ‘‘Tappan and Searle,’’ and was eminently successful until he became inter- ested in the printing of calicoes at his bleachery in Charlestown, Mas- sachusetts, where the first printing of the kind in this country was done, In thi¥ latter business he met reverses. When Arthur left Canada and opened an importing house in New York City in 1821, Lewis entered into partnership with him. Both soon became rich.

During this period of their rise to wealth and power, they pursued the high example set by their father. Both were religious, proper in their conduct, and scrupulously

moral. Arthur had the reputation of never having uttered a profane word, Living decently was one of the foundations of their growth. As rich men the Tappan broth- ers received appeals to help many worthy causes, but they devoted most of their time and means to organizations that promoted hu- man welfare. They were deeply interested in the anti-slavery cause and became members of the New York Anti-Slavery Society. This interest was quite costly, for as members of the Anti-Slavery So- ciety they suffered from the wrath of men who thought of them as trouble-makers. Their store in New York became a target for the anti-abolition mobs. Business had to be suspended. When the mayor of the city refused to send relief the Tappans calmly and bravely organized the clerks, provided them with muskets, and defended the property themselves. The cow- ardly hoodlums succeeded in burn- ing and sacking the home of Lewis Tappan when the family was away. At this time their busi-



ness establishment was almost ostracized by the dry-goods buy- ers. Merchants in all parts of the country, north as well as south, who had been their chief cus- tomers, did not dare to have it known that they bought goods of them; and when they did so, they requested particularly that the bundles or boxes should not be marked ‘‘From A. Tappan and Co.’’ as was customary.

All this, instead of daunting them, only made them more per- sistent and determined. They open- ly became leaders of the anti-slav- ery cause, sustained by means of their great wealth, family influence, and indomitable will. Arthur Tap- pan became president of a new society named the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. This was a larger group united in the great work of bringing about the extinction of the slave trade and slavery, not only in this land but throughout the world. It was be- lieved that this organization helped a great deal in the fight against slavery. Both of the Tappans were liberal supporters and _ earnest workers in the American Mission- ary Society, which carried on the work of emancipation as well as that of missions. Arthur Tappan served as chairman of the execu- tive committee in this group.

But their powers to fight and re- sist in freedom’s name were not fully tested until the passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill by the Con- gress of the United States in 1850. This bill astounded all true patriots and Christians by its unconstitu- tional provisions and caused a number of men to band together for the purpose of disobeying the measure. As usual, the Tappans soon allied themselves with this group of brave Americans, known as the New York Vigilance Com- mittee, and set themselves to the task of aiding the fugitive slaves. Arthur Tappan spoke for the Vigi- lance Committee when he an- nounced calmly, ‘‘I will submit to the penalty if need be, but will not obey.’’ This period in American history is one of horror and terror

for the Negro slaves and for those.

excellent men who by means of the underground railroad helped them to escape to Canada. Often the masters of the fugitive slaves or their agents came to the city in hot pursuit, so the slaves had to be warned and sent away quickly. In William Still’s book entitled The Underground Rail Road, there is a letter written by Lewis Tappan in which he tells how he warned run- away slaves and helped the travel- ers to follow the ‘‘north star’’ (as

the passage by way of the under-.

ground railroad was called). In fact, several records refer to Mr. Lewis Tappan as half-owner of a horse that made frequent journeys carrying fugitives. Lewis Tappan also tried to educate public opinion by helping in the writing and cir- culation of pamphlets about the Fugitive Slave Bill. It is said that 13,000 copies of the pamphlet were sold at five cents a copy in three weeks.

Not only were the Tappan broth- ers interested in abolishing slavery but they were solicitous for the welfare of the colored free men, old and new. They felt that these peo- ple should be enlightened and edu- eated. With this in mind, the younger Tappan brother opened a Sunday School for colored adults in West Broadway, New York, where he and several others de- voted most of the Sabbath to their teaching. (This room also served as a meeting place for the seventy anti-slavery agents scattered all over the country.) For three years Lewis Tappan superintended this Sabbath School. Furthermore, the brothers gave freely of their means to schools for Negroes and schools where Negroes were admitted. Ob- erlin College was one of the latter schools which benefited by the gen- erosity of the Tappans, and one of the buildings is called Tappan Hall.

This interest in the welfare of the Negro was close to their hearts even to the very end. In a letter written by Arthur Tappan’s daugh- ter, there is mentioned one of her father’s last activities in this con-

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nection. She said that in his last illness (the day before he died), though unable even to sit up ‘‘he deliberately put on his glasses which were lying by him on the bed, and picking up the New York Tribune, he read a short article in fine print about colored persons.’’ Arthur Tappan died in New Ha- ven, Connecticut, July 23, 1865. His brother Lewis died in Brook- lyn, New York, June 21, 1873.

Perhaps from these men, we to- day can learn how to suffer and persevere in order to realize our dream of democratic living. The glorious example set by the Tappan brothers in their efforts to re- enforce the greatest democracy in the world is a challenge to all Americans, and especially to col- ored patriots, to carry on until every individual regardless of race has an equal opportunity to live and work together with others in our beloved country.

The Douglas School in Chicago

The teachers and pupils of the Douglas School in Chicago have set a fine example for the study of the Negro. They desire to know the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth. They use freely as supplementary matter books bearing on many phases of the life and history of the Negro, and they make the work realistic by showing its bearing on the lives of the stu- dents themselves. They study books by Negro authors, read the accounts of Negro heroes of today, and sing the songs made popular by Negro artists. They go further in work- ing these ideas into posters which are placed on the school bulletin board to inspire similar efforts among those not yet awakened. The posters recently produced there during Negro History Week im- press the staff as the most appeal- ing observed this season. All honor to the Douglas School! May its followers multiply throughout the land!

May, 1943

Independence and Freedom as Interpreted by Ralph W.

CCORDING to an old adage, A we know a man by his works. Likewise do we know a man’s works by the man. Especially is this the case with Emerson, one of America’s most distinguished thinkers and writers, The key to Emerson the poet, es- sayist, and philosopher is Emerson himself, and sometimes he is a dif- ficult key to turn. In his views on the individual, the soul, man, hero- ism, idealism, nature, politics, re- form, character, education, and re- ligion he was liberal and altruistic, but above all, he was individual ; he was Emerson.

Emerson favored freedom in re- ligion, Coming from eight genera- tions of clergymen and ordained as a minister in the Unitarian Church in 1829, he nevertheless resigned his position in September, 1832, be- eause he could no longer honestly give the communion service, feel- ing that true communion is purely spiritual and that genuine worship is hindered by outward forms. How obvious is the independent, indi- vidual thought and action here.

Emerson pleaded for indepen- dence and freedom in education. He hailed the day that America’s apprenticeship to the learning of foreign lands was drawing to a close.t Books he classed among the best of things when they were used for their one correct end—to in- spire. A book so used as to dull one’s creative instinct was a book abused. So he felt toward colleges. Colleges serve when they ‘‘create,’’ when they ‘‘set the hearts of their youth 'on flame.’’** Here too is the individual note.

On women’s rights, on the Chero- ©

kee Indian problem, Emerson was the liberal and the altruist. All

1Hmerson’s Essays, The Modern Stu- ,

dent’s Library, ‘‘The American Schol- ar,’’ p. 39.

2Tbid., p. 43.

3Tbid., p. 45.

By Myrtite HENrRy

people, he felt, have equal rights in virtue of their being identical in nature.* As long as women did not have equal rights of property and suffrage, he said, they were not on the right footing.© Concerning the Cherokee Indians, whom he loved and admired, he wrote Presi- dent Van Buren an impassioned letter of protest, when in 1838 they were forced to move to the Indian Territory in accordance with a treaty to which the Cherokee tribe as a unit did not consent.

For the spirit of man, for the en- tire individual there must be free- dom, Emerson repeated again and again. ‘‘. .. Imitation is suicide,’’ he writes. Consistency, conform- ity, our own consciousness, our ven- eration of names and customs are among our most dangerous ene- mies.’ We must throw off the prison house of society and come to trust ourselves as our own taskmasters. In short, we must attain self-re- liance. Only through the develop- ment of self-reliance can we de- velop ourselves, belong to the truth, and know peace and free-



Expressed and Emerson

dom. We may see his idea of the full import of self-reliance upon an individual and upon that individ- ual’s relation to life in the state- ment:

“Tt is easy to see that a greater self- reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.”®

There are many who wonder, perhaps, why Emerson was rather slow in taking an active part in the abolition movement or, perhaps, why he never became an enthusiast like Garrison or Lovejoy. By no means is the answer that Emerson was merely a theorist or an im- practical dreamer. The answer again lies in the recognition that Emerson’s peculiarly, stubbornly individual concepts are the key to Emerson,

In the first place, Emerson was skeptical of ‘‘forms’’ and reforms and movements and reformers. Yet, when no other church in Boston was open to abolitionist speakers, Emerson allowed Samuel May (in May, 1831) and Arnold Buffum (in December, 1832) to give anti-slav- ery lectures in his church. How- ever, neither his thinking nor his disposition moved him to an active part in the agitation until some years later.

The lecture New England Re- formers delivered March, 1844, sets forth the basic principles in Emer- son’s attitude toward reforms. This attitude is first affected by the independence and _ individualism which we have already seen as his underlying faith. After noting the growth of various types of societies

40p. cit., ‘‘ Polities,’’ p. 199.

5Russell, Phillips, Emerson, p. 253.

6Emerson’s Essays, The Modern Stu- dent’s Library, ‘‘Self-Reliance,’’ p. 78.

TIbid., passim.

8Ibid., p. 93. -


and movements in New England, he remarks that the first expres- sions of protest were excellent, but that the actions lost all value when copied, ‘‘Every project in the his- tory of reform, no matter how vio- lent and surprising, is good when it is the dictate of man’s genius and constitution, but very dull and sus- picious when adopted from an- other.’”®

Attempted reform through or- ganizations and through ‘‘short mechanical methods’’ he felt was hardly worth the struggle. Reform must be spiritual; it must be a re- form of character ; it must be a ren- ovation of the whole man. One cannot be truly good or strong in the specific problem of his interest if he is narrow or negligent toward other things around him. Concert action, unified action, to be effec- tual, must be inward and can be no stronger than the individual force of each separate member. Every member must remain an in- dividually complete, ‘‘self-reliant’’ being who must not ‘‘lose his way”’ on the rubbish pile of the trivial and the accidental. There can be little single improvement without total regeneration, first of the man, and through him, of the whole state. Only when reformers through their own harmony of ‘‘tender conscience,’’ truth, and strength are able to give ‘‘the authentic sign’’ to others will their ends be secured.!° The reformer could not be a little man, or a half-man; he must be a figure of man-sized and man-thinking proportions.

We may not agree with that biog- rapher who terms Emerson ‘‘The Wisest American,’ but I think we must have by now an idea of what Dr. Quinn, scholar of Ameri- ean literature, meant when he said: ‘Reading Emerson is not like en- tering the fresh air—it is rather like entering a room highly charged with oxygen.’’!? Emerson cannot be digestibly ‘‘tasted.’’

90p. cit., ‘‘New England Reformers,’’ p. 212.

107 bid., passim.

11Russell, Phillips, Emerson—The Wis- est American,

12Emerson’s Essays, The Modern Stu- dent’s Library, Introduction by A. H. Quinn, p. XII.

Also did his beliefs'on the funda- mental dignity of man, man’s in- trinsic love of truth, and the ideal relationship between man and na- ture keep Emerson from hurrying into the abolition movement.

It is this last idea especially that we need recognize, With his stress on the infinite, Emerson felt that we give too much heed to inconse- quential things. Then, he believed, like Wordsworth, that our ‘‘med- dling intellects’’ need not be ‘‘for- ever seeking,’’ that a single ‘‘im- pulse from a vernal wood’’ can teach us more than all the sages. Now, quoting Emerson: ‘‘ We inter- fere with the optimism of nature. .. . Nature will not have us fret and fume. ... When we come out of the caucus, or the bank, or the abolition convention, or the Tem- perance meeting, or the Transcen- dental club, into the fields and woods, she says to us, ‘So hot?, my little sir.’ ’’15 Further, in Spiritual Laws, the source of the preceding quotation, we read other thoughts that may not impress some of us by their practicality, but which cer- tainly impress by their beauty and by their revelation of their author. ‘*Belief and love,—-a believing love will relieve us of a vast load of care. O my brothers, God exists. There is a soul at the centre of na- ture, and over the will of every man, so that none of us can wrong the universe.’’"* Emerson did not believe it in the nature of things that a person could continue in the wrong if he were brought to see the right.

However, we are not to think that Emerson had any delusions about any phase of affairs in Amer- ica. ‘‘ We think our civilization near its meridian,’’ he writes, ‘‘but we are yet only at the cock-crowing and the morning star.’"5 From neither of the two leading political parties could Emerson see any benefits in keeping with the re- sources of the nation. The Demo- cratic Party had the better cause but was lacking in representative men. Moreover, its radicalism was destructive in that it grew out of

130p, cit., ‘‘Spiritual Laws,’’ p. 103.

M7 hid. p.105. 15Qp. cit., ‘‘Polities,’’ p. 206.

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hatred and selfishness. The Con- servative Party had the better men, he believed, but its weakness lay in its timidity and want of a coura- geous, generous policy. Emerson sees largely the same solution for these defects as he saw for the prob- lem of reform—character, The state must follow the character of its citizens. ‘‘The appearance of character makes the State unneces- sary.’’ Emerson realized that only with the development of the wise man could the state reach the ideal of the least amount of formal gov- ernment. ‘‘The wise man is the State.’"!7 Reliance on moral senti- ment, trusting in the principle of right and love, trying the power of love as the basis of a state—why had this course never been tried, Emerson wondered.

Thus have we seen that from the time that Emerson resigned his pas- torate in 1832 through his writing of New England Reformers, 1844, that independence and the growth of character in the individual are Emerson’s requisites for any re-

‘form, for all reform. This view,

along with his conception of the spiritual influence of nature on man, helps us to see why he was not drawn more rapidly into the aboli- tion movement.

In 1841, in Spiritual Laws Em- erson wrote that we show character whether we act or whether we sleep. The person who expresses no opin- ion on slavery and other problems of the day when others are speak- ing is mistaken if he believes that his judgment is awaited as a bit of

wisdom. Such a person has no ‘foracle to utter ... for oracles speak. ’’2§

When Emerson saw the time for Emerson to speak, he spoke. That time came for him in 1850 when the Fugitive Slave Law was passed. We have already noted that as early as 1831 he permitted anti- slavery speakers the use of his church. In 1835 he befriended Har- riet Martineau. In 1844 he deliv- ered an address in Concord on the anniversary of the emancipation of

(Continued on page 185)

167bid., p. 203.

17] bid., p. 206. 18Qp. cit., ‘*Spiritual Laws,’’ p. 114.

May, 1943



F ALL the poets of America () Walt Whitman especially wished to be the prophet of American democracy. He envis- aged an America that in the future would be the perfect embodiment of all the principles of democracy, some of which were wunachieved when Whitman was writing. Amer- ica, considered by many English- men as a rough land full of bar- baric, uncouth, and unoriginal pio- neers, was to him a land of promise and potential freedom where demo- eratic brotherhood, rejoicing in the freedom and zest of life, would prevail on a ‘‘continent indissol- uble . . . . with the love of com- rades.’’ Here poets would be the priests of a religion as cosmic as the universal soul of Nature. With this objective and vision Whitman at the age of thirty-six entered the American literary arena in 1856 with a small volume, Leaves of Grass, which because of its revolutionary tendencies shocked many of the conventional, literary intellects of the period. Since that time he has emerged from a great sea of controversy as the great poet of American democracy who best represents all that America has dared or ever dares to be. Environment and heredity con- spired to make Whitman an apostle of democracy. One of his imme- diate grandmothers was a Quaker- ess. His parents were of good, solid stock interested in the principles of freedom and democracy, As a child, he was inspired by the lofty character of Elias Hicks, a minis- ter known for his insistence on the

importance of the individual and -

kindly interest in the Negroes of New York and their problems. Nature, also, a great influence in romanticism of all lands, made a deep impression upon Whitman’s sensitive mind. The sun mounting silently in the clear sky and ‘‘streaming kissingly and almost

By Eva BEatrice DYKES

hot’’ on the poet’s face ; birds—cat- birds, kingfishers, quails, thrushes, robins, woodpeckers; tall majestic trees with their lessons of vital en- during strength and heroism; gur- gling brooks and flowers of varie- gated colors,—all were appreciated by his poetic soul. Indeed, love of freedom was not unsuited to the temperament of the poet who cried out to one of his acquaintances, ‘‘Give me the great trees of the forest! Give me the roaring cata- ract—give me the mountains, the ocean, the rushing steam engine, and the monarchs of the storm that plough the seas—give me these for a poem. O Mother Ocean, come to my arms!”’

Along with love of nature is an- other romantic trait, namely, indi- vidualism. Strong individualism is evident in Whitman and is no doubt due to the influence of trans- cendentalism which extolled the preeminence of the individual. As he identifies himself with every in- dividual, he asks, ‘‘ Who is the be- ing to whom I am the inferior?”’ He also asserts, ‘‘I am the poet of slaves, and of the masters of slaves.



... 1 am the poet.’’ His individ- ualism is seen in many ways: in his selecting his own favorite type for the printer; in the odd binding of the first edition of Leaves of Grass with its cover of dark green cloth and designs of flowers, leaves, and strange rootlets; in his refusal to submit to the advice of Emerson, who urged him to omit from subse- quent editions of Leaves of Grass those poems which had in the first edition offended public taste; in his frank treatment of the human body and sex; in his eccentric manner of dress ; and in his early belief in the importance of America and her sa- ered inheritance.

This belief in the future of a great America colors much of Whitman’s prose and poetry. In 1846 he writes that thirty years from that time America’s power, wealth, and her citizens’ virtue and happiness will cause America to be the leading nation of the world, destined to relieve the oppressed peoples of Europe and restore them to the place God destined for them. His glorification of the American scene and his insistence that Amer- ican writers come from under the influence of European literature and music, and turn for inspiration to the rich romantic heritage that is theirs evince his love for America.

Whitman intensifies many demo- cratic ideals of the past and antici- pates many modern reforms in the American way of living. He car- ries on the interest of Richardson, Gray, Crabbe, Burns, and Words- worth in the common people as he pleads in his various editorial writ- ings for more freedom for those servants forced to work every day in the week and for young junior clerks working from nine in the morning until nine at night. The humanitarian, movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in England with its emphasis on


the working-men finds its echo in Whitman’s sympathy with truck- drivers, miners, masons, pilots, builders, and others, In fact, he would like to see as president of the United States a laborer coming down from the West across the Al- leghenies into the presidential chair. He advocates better build- ings for children in the Brooklyn schools and advocates music as a regular branch of study in all com- mon schools. He speaks out ve- hemently against the inhuman cus- tom of flogging in the schools, ex- cept in rare instances. On one oceasion, he praises the excellent performance of the Apollonean children at a concert, yet fears that they may not get enough out-door exercise and active, physical rec- reation. On another occasion, he shows an intimate kinship with the twentieth century American Con- gress as he writes in 1847: ‘‘If we are to have war, the common sol- diers, the working men of the army, should be well paid.’’ His cham- pionship of women is in keeping with his statement, ‘‘I am the poet of women as well as men. The woman is no less than the man.”’ In an editorial of January 29, 1849, he deplores the poor wages of the sewing women in Brooklyn and New York, indicating the close re- lationship between poor pay for women and crime among women. Another editorial of February 18, 1849, praises the Wisconsin Consti- tution for asserting that property owned by women before marriage and acquired by them after mar- riage is to be considered as their own separate property. All of these ideas are embodied in the set-up of modern democracy.

It is not surprising, then, to find themes illustrative of democracy in his works. The man who said of himself, ‘‘I am the Poet of equal- ity’’ is fond of such themes as the glorification of the commonplace, love of the laboring classes, the equality of man and woman, the equality of all races, the impor- tance of democracy, the identifica- tion of himself with all types of humanity from the lunatic to the

queen that walks serenely to the scaffold, and the assertion of free- dom in all its forms.

As an example of freedom, when an editor of the Washington Union was expelled from the Senate Chamber for making caustic re- marks about some Senators in 1847, Whitman asserts the right of free speech and free discussion. On an- other occasion, he speaks against the unconstitutionality of the copy- right law which compels authors to give without pay to Congress for the Smithsonian library a copy of their books, Again, efforts on the part of religious groups to discon- tinue public transportation on Sun- days and prohibit the sale of gro- eeries and other provisions cause him to voice his lack of ‘‘faith in that morality which is the result of coercive laws.’’ Whitman’s love of freedom is seen also in his un- stinted praise of writers of freedom like Burns, Bryant, Paine, Shake- speare, Goethe, Byron, and Rous- seau. He repudiates Cowper, who advocated the divine right of kings, Johnson, ‘‘the burly aristocrat,’’ and Scott whose novels breathe an anti-democratic spirit. Probably Whitman was unaware of the un- compromising stand of Cowper and Johnson against slavery and their championship of the Negro’s cause. Furthermore, the love of freedom is seen in the new type of verse em- ployed by Whitman, a verse which in its lack of rhyme and metre re- sembles in its irregularity the mu- sical cadences of Ossianic prose. Also, Whitman’s diction and lan- guage are colored by many collo- quialisms and slang expressions as he strives to free himself from con- ventional diction and expression of the regular poetry of the times.

Turning now to his attitude to the Negro and slavery, we find that there is some confusion, because two attitudes are discernible in his writings, which are somewhat diffi- cult to reconcile unless we keep in mind Emerson’s statement that consistency is the hobgoblin of lit- tle minds.

One attitude towards the Negro is that of apathy and indifference.

Tue Nearo History BULLETIN

An editorial of February 10, 1847, written after Whitman had learned of a proposal to ‘‘get up .... a remonstrance against Amer- ican slavery to be signed by 3,000,- 000 of the people of Great Britain —a number equal to that of slaves —questions the unjust laws and distinctions that exist in Britain, where millions of slaves exist un- der conditions compared with which the condition of the South Carolinian Negro is_ paradise. ‘“When they obliterate the foul bondage of their fellow white men at home and of their Asiatic prov- ince,’’ Whitman says, ‘‘then it is quite time enough to go abroad.’’ An editorial of June 17, 1847, calls attention to the fact that the Eng- lish government in 1835 gave $100,000,000 to liberate 780,793 Negroes in the West Indies while in 1847 it offered $40,000,000 to feed 5,000,000 of her starving Irish citizens. ‘‘The freedom of one Negro is, therefore, worth more than the lives of five Irishmen.’’ In September of 1847, an editorial, ‘‘American Workingmen versus Slavery,’’ deplores the spread of slaves because it made these white laborers compete with labor in chains. Whitman demands that the workingmen tell all quarters that they are not willing to be put on the level of Negro slaves. When men like Thoreau were indignant at the execution of John Brown in 1859, Whitman was affected, but not to the extent that his appetite was disturbed. On July 17, 1857, we see Whitman characterizing the African Negroes as cruel, bestial, and lacking in education and refine- ment. He bids the Negroes in the North and South bear in mind that if they had stayed in Africa they would be ‘‘wild, filthy, and pagan- istic’’ instead of living in a ecivil- ized land of light. However, Whit- man says that America is not the best for slavery, though political- economic grounds demand its per- petuation in Cuba and Brazil. The planter Bourne in Whitman’s story Franklin, the Inebriate per- ceives that the southern slaves would be very unhappy if free, for

May, 1943

they are more comfortable and bet- ter cared for than many of the people in Europe, who are in the depths of misery and starvation. On a visit to the Southland when an observer saw that the Negroes were still in slavery, Whitman an- swered, ‘‘I don’t care for niggers! I don’t care for the niggers in com- parison with all this suffering and the dismemberment of the Union.”’

An opposite attitude is revealed by the following: In an editorial of December 21, 1846, Whitman claimed to be the first editor in New York to speak out boldly against the extension of slavery in new territory. On this account he lost his position on the staff of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle but was im- mediately asked to join the staff of the Brooklyn Daily Freeman, An editorial, ‘‘Slavers and the Slave Trade,’’ the preceding March calls slavery a disgrace and blot on America and humanity. Later Whitman commends a colored law- yer in Boston by the name of An- derson who was just as ‘‘smart and big’’ as the rest of the lawyers. The blacks in Boston, Whitman avers, are of a superior order and quite as ‘*eood to have in contact’’ with one as the average white man. The wounded Negro soldiers in the hos- pitals of the South received kind treatment from his hands. When Whitman visited the First Regi- ment, United States Colored troops at their encampment, he was im- pressed by their fine appearance, their military air, and noble bear- ing. No one could behold them without being well pleased with them. Whitman’s notebook contains fervent expressions of indignation against slavery, such as ‘‘ What real Americans’’ can be made out of the. masters of slaves? Whit- man’s poetry also contains many passages showing his interest in the slave. Among these poems may be mentioned ‘‘Blood-Money’’ and ‘“Wounded in the House of His Friends,’’ which show his indigna- tion at Webster’s Seventh of March Speech and the Fugitive Slave Law.

Individual Negroes attracted the

attention of Whitman. When a ferocious Negro, William Freeman, after five years’ probably unjust incarceration in a State prison, ran amuck and killed five innocent peo- ple, Whitman ardently defended him, placing responsibility not upon him but upon society. Whit- man knew an old Negro woman in New York who made her living as cook, nurse, and washerwoman. Her kindness to a young deaf mute girl is revealed in his tale, ‘‘The Old Black Widow.’’ His interest in Negroes of merit is shown by a letter in the New York Historical Society addressed to him on June 12, 1881, by Eliza S, Leggett of Detroit, dealing with the experi- ences of Sojourner Truth, ‘‘a re- markable Negress.’’ Therefore, the poet who thought it good to be on Chestnut street on a spring day and see, among other types of hu- manity, the young Negro mother with her ‘‘two little coffee-color’d twins’’ on her lap; and the traveler who found it pleasant to engage in conversation with Creoles, Negroes, and Indians in colorful New Or- leans, with its beautiful ‘‘Miss Dusky Grisette’’ of the ‘‘nearly- straight hair,’?— such a man was not wholly indifferent to the Negro.

The following statement may, to some extent, account for Whit- man’s apparently vacillating atti- tude. In 1888, he said when many people, including Phillips, thought slavery the one erying sin