There is an additional reason why a considerable portion of the Union armies should be made up of persons of African descent. The transformation of the slave society of the South into free society, no longer properly a question, has become a necessity of our national existence. Reflecting men have already reached the conclusion, and the mass of our people are attaining to it day by day, that the sole condition of permanent peace on this continent is the eradication of negro slavery. But the history of the world furnishes no example of an enslaved race which won its freedom without exertion of its own. That the indiscriminate massacres of a servile insurrection have been spared us, as addition to the horrors of a civil war, is due, it would seem, rather to that absence of revenge and bloodthirstiness which characterizes this race than to the lack either of courage or of any other quality that makes the hardy combatant, for these the negro appears, so far as we have tried him, in civilized warfare, to possess. And in such warfare is fitting that the African race seek its own social salvation? The negro must fight for emancipation if he is to be emancipated.
If, then, emancipation be the price of national unity and of peace, and if a people, to be emancipated must draw the sword in their own cause, then is the future welfare of the white race in our country indissolubly connected with an act of justice, on our part, toward people of another race; then is it the sole condition under which we may expect, and if history speak truth, the sole condition under which we shall attain, domestic tranquillity, that we shall give the negro an opportunity of working out, on those battle-fields that are to decide our own national destiny, his destiny, whether as slave or as freedman, at the same time.
The Commission have been instructed to report how colored freedmen "can be most usefully employed in the service of the Government for the suppression of the rebellion." The above remarks may suffice as the record of their profound conviction that no more effectual aid can be had in the speedy suppression of the rebellion and the restoration of permanent peace than is to be obtained by inducing the hearty co-operation of these freedmen, and by giving full scope to their energies as military laborers and soldiers during the continuance of the war. a
But to give full scope to their energies in war we must not treat them as stepchildren. It is so manifestly just, to say nothing of the evident expediency for the benefit of the service, that no discrimination should be made either as to wages or in any other respect, between the white and the colored soldier, that the Commission would deem it unnecessary but for recent indications, to express, as they now do, their conviction that of all petty schemes of false economy such discrimination against the colored soldier is the worst. Performing the same duties, subjected to the same fatigues, marshaled on the same battle-fields side by side with the white soldier, and exposing, like him his life of his country, one would think that the innate sense of right would preclude the necessity of a single argument on the subject. What probability of future harmony between the races, if we begin our connection with the new-made freedmen by such an act of flagrant injustice?
Let us beware the temptation to treat the colored with less than even justice, because they have been, and still are, lowly and feeble. Let us bear in mind that, with governments as with individuals, the crucial test of civilization, and sense of justice is their treatment of the weak and the dependent.
God is offering to us an opportunity of atoning, in some measure, to the African for our former complicity in his wrongs. For our own sakes, as well as for his, let it not be lost. As we would that He should be to us and to our children, so let us be to those whose dearest interest, are, by His providence, committed for the time to our charge.
As regards the question, What amount of aid and interference is necessary or desirable to enable the freedmen to tide over the stormy transition from slavery to freedom? we have chiefly to say that there
a Preliminary Report of the Commission, pp. 35 to 39. [See Vol. III, this series, pp. 451-453.]