AFTER THE STORM.*
MR. SKINNER acted, we suppose, as correspondent to some jour- nal, for only a special correspondent could have written at once so discursively and so well, could have noticed so many often described facts, yet have been upon the whole so original and un- biassed. There is a want of connection, too, in his thoughts such as is seldom perceptible except in work executed at many times and under many and very different circumstances. The letters are, however, lively, picturesque, and apparently impartial, the writer being one of those men who admire the courage and determination of the South while detesting slavery. By far the. most interesting chapters in his work are those which describe the relation of the dark and white races to each other after the war, and it is to these that we shall ,principally confine our attention. The first incident which came across Mr. Skinner was the recep- tion of the " 102nd United States' Coloured Infantry" by the people of Cleveland, Ohio, and a pleasant scene it must have been. The managers of the Soldiers' Home invited the soldiers to a. dinner, and the regiment arrived by train :—" Physically, it is a collection of English-speaking Christian Turcos, without the turban and loose trousers, but with strength enough to give the Algerine a hard tussle, should they ever come across him." The men dine quietly, but with the broad good-humour on their faces characteristic of the race, waited on by the white ladies who manage the Home, march out, listen to a short speech from the senior officer, who mentions incidentally that fifty thousand negroes have fallen in the service, and depart, first, however, raising a burst. of "cheering in answer to his words ; caps are waved, and faces lighted with smiles. The three times three is given with boyish enthusiasm, and we can understand how those black soldiers would charge a battery." Whereupon two workmen have a slight dis- pute :—" Don't talk to me about niggers,' says a sturdy looker- on, at my elbow ; I've seen them skedaddle.' And I've ske- daddled myself,' remarks his companion, drily ; so have you,. Bill.' The sturdy looker-on, with a badge to show that he has been in the army, nods his head profoundly, whilst uttering this
oracular sentiment Sir, the principle I agree to, though it's pretty steep to come down on me with nigger equality, but if he and I skedaddled at the same time and bust ourselves with running, it wouldn't make him white nor me black.' " The second experience is not quite so pleasant. Mr. Skinner was in Quincy, Illinois, walking about, when a young negro warned two white lads who were skylarking, standing on their heads in the road, that they might be ran over. Thereupon "a gaunt white man, of hang-dog aspect, swore fearfully at what he called the ' d—d impudence of coloured cusses' in telling
white children to get off the track. Sir,' said he, ' if those darned niggers had been in reach, I would have kicked them over.' Receiving no answer to this remark, he drew near me as I descended the hill, and inquired sternly, ' Wouldn't you have kicked them over ?' I naturally answered that I would not, and without taking farther notice of the stranger, moved forward. Ah P he cried, tauntingly, I'd flay every saucy nigger if I had my way. l'd not only kick them over, but, by G—, I'd kick over those that said they wouldn't kick them over.' " He was from over the border, and belonged to the class in which the Standard does not believe, but which is the only real difficulty in the way of emancipation—the mean white. This is the sort of man who is just now shooting negroes down, and declaring that Andrew Johnson is the hope of the Union. The man might, however, have hesitated before he carried his threat into execution, for the negro, though he puts up with words, only occasionally retorting, is disposed to resist force. Here is an incident in New Orleans:—. " There was a darkey leaving one of the steamers, and as he stepped ashore he brushed slightly against a white passer-by- White chap hit Sambo in the face, whereupon Sambo paused for a moment to consider his position, remembered he was free, and followed the aggressor with a broad grin. ' What do you want, you d—d nigger ?' inquired Whitechap, on perceiving that he should have to say something. ' What do I want ? d— you r responded Sambo. Jist hit me agin, that's all. Why, I'd whip two of you.' They faced each other during several minutes, and Sambo endured a torrent of oaths unmoved. 'Hit me agin, that's all!' said he. But his opponent, not having a taste for rough-and-tumble played at by two, though willing to perform a solo on the human countenance, slowly evaporated, amid the jeers of the spectators." Mr. Skinner watched the negroes closely at Memphis, once a centre of slavery fanaticism, and thlts records his experience • After the Storm; or, Jonathan and his Neighbours in 18015.E By S. E. Hilary Skinner. 2 yobs. London: Bentley. "Coloured folk came trudging into town, with battered hats and dusty clothes, or waited near the Freedmen's Bureau, willing to be hired when the moment for hiring came, and content, meanwhile, to stare about them, which is, undoubtedly, a freedman's privilege. But there was less idling than I had been led to expect. Black men rolled bales of cotton on the levee, drove waggons, and helped in the ware- houses. They ran on errands, acted as servants and porters, performed every function of a labouring class. Contracts for plantation work were hourly entered into by ex-slaves, under the superintendence of General Dudley, of the Bureau • and if some darkeys carried liberty to the extent of loafing, why, so did many whites. I tried to look at things in Mem- phis impartially—to forget what institutions had been, and to judge by the same standard as I should apply to an English town. Thus looking and thus judging, it was clear that freedom had not greatly demoralized
any but those who were out of pocket by the change. No one asked alms of me in Memphis, nor was I rudely hustled by darkeys when we met on the crowded pavement ; nor did the black men to whom I spoke fail to answer me civilly. I was informed that they now bore con- cealed weapons, and would resent any aggression with violence, but as this was exactly my own case, and that of every white citizen with whom I was acquainted, it appeared less shocking than might have been supposed. Freedmen only imitated what free men had done for years past in Tennessee."
If the negroes would use open weapons a little more instead of carrying them concealed, it would be better for them, but there
was a time, not a hundred years ago, when an Irish rough would no more return a " gentleman's " blow openly than he would now a priest's, and a man could be got to play game for bloodhounds to hunt, vide Mr. Grattan's reminiscences. Mr. Skinner still found fanatics for slavery, one gentleman remarking off Vicksburg that " slavery was his religion," but the general impression produced is that the great planters were personally kind. The overseers and mean whites are the people hated, the negroes now being generally, ready to engage with the old owner for wages in preference to seeking new employ. Mr. Skinner rejects the charge of laziness in tote, believing that the following conversation gives a better idea of the truth :- "I saw plenty of well dressed, prosperous-looking coloured people, and plenty of black men toiling with a will to earn their livelihood. There were also groups of sable loungers, and these attracted my companion's attention.—' There, Sir, 'cried he, you see those lazy niggers wont work.'—I stepped up to the particular persons indicated, and asked one of them whether he could get anything to do.—"Sports I could,' replied Sambo, with a grin, ' but I've always been workin' since I war that high, and now I'se lookin' round a bit.'—' That's so,' adds another lounger, we'se bona to work, only we want to wait till our money's gone.' "
We have somewhere or other an old pamphlet in which the -writer resists the Union with Scotland on the ground, among others, that Scotchmen, of all mankind, are "lazy and proud,"— an idea derived from the almost total want of employment which fell upon Scotland in the few years before the Union, and we have repeatedly heard Englishmen pronounce Bengalees lazy simply because they are up four hours before their critics, and so got their work half done. Of course the negro will not work without need, but neither will an Italian or Spaniard, or any other man who has not contracted the Englishman's love for occupation as occupation or the Chinaman's passion for accumulation. The real idler is the English workman who could earn fifty shillings a week, and would like it, but rather than work on Monday and Tuesday contents himself with thirty. Mr. Skinner describes the position of the free negro as resembling very much that of the Jews in the Middle Ages. Society excludes and debases them, but many accumulate wealth, and some through education in
Europe become gentlemen. Dr. Kondanez, of New Orleans, is one of them, " an accomplished gentleman," a quadroon, who now edits the New Orleans Tribune in English and French, and con- tends that the negro should have the suffrage. Mr. Skinner visited a colony established by the Bureau on an abandoned plantation, and decided strongly in favour of the system, though without giving sufficiently detailed reasons. The main advantage of the Bureau, when well worked, seems to be that it administers a kind of poor law, differing from ours in that relief is administered in the shape of work to all but the feeble and the aged. The negroes seemed contented, and the black soldiers discussed frankly their hopes and prospects. One of them must have been educated, for he asked about Cuba and its probable enfranchisement, and Mr. Skinner found everywhere a strong desire for education, the motive-spring being the longing for greater equality with the whites. At Charleston he attended a newly built negro church, and "This congregation, in the newly built church at Charleston, neither shed tears nor groaned while listening to the more impressive passages of the sermon. It was as quiet a congregation as yon could wish to see, should you 'object to religious excitement. Yet, when there came a request for support on behalf of a coloured college, I observed that five- dollar notes were plentifully handed in, and that everybody present gave something, The people are keen for education, which they see to be necessary to their children in a future of equal rights. The children
themselves are anxious to learn, and from my visit to the coloured schools in Charleston I formed a high opinion of young Sambo's ability. He has not here been so long at work as have his kindred in New Orleans, but despite such drawback, his progress is most encouraging. I saw several tiny urchins, of pure African descent, who could read fluently and write a legible round hand. Nor were they slow at arithmetic, as they ought to have been to justify sundry abstruse theories about them."
He also listened to a planter at dinner who, in the hearing of his negro servant, declared negroes had no souls, and then to a sharp sensible speech from that identical negro to hundreds of his country- men showing them that political rights could not be far off. There seems to have been a total absence of bitterness against individual masters, and the general conclusion in our minds from Mr. Skinner's sketches is something like this. If the violent class of whites can be compelled by force, or example, or education to leave the blacks alone, the South may settle down into plantations again without serfage laws, the great planter paying for his labour weekly, instead of buying it once for all, and trusting for discipline partly to fines and partly to the immense authority involved in his power to dismiss the negro from his home as well as his employment. The negro likes home, and if relieved from blows, from the fear of sale, and from the danger of losing his children, will not be intract- able either about wages or land, and not unreasonably idle. That is, as we judge, the opinion of a fair observer, not prejudiced in favour of Samba, though ready to risk a dagger rather than praise, slavery, and it is, we suspect, very near the truth.