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Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 10811

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The editor of one of the leading morning papers of R-- sat at his desk one afternoon, knitting his brows as he read a document spread out before him. Having finished reading it once, he began the second reading, wearing on his face the same intent expression. Having concluded the second reading, he laid the article down, rested his head on the back of his chair and closed his eyes as if in deep meditation. After a few moments' reflection he decided upon the third reading of the document. When he had finished this last perusal, he went to the telephone and summoned Dorlan Warthell to an immediate conference with him. Dorlan soon arrived and was ushered into the editors's private office.

"Be seated," said the editor, in a most cordial manner. "Mr. Warthell," said he, "I have read your document the third time and I now desire to ask you two questions. The character of your answers to them will determine whether I shall propound to you a third." Looking earnestly into Dorlan's face, he enquired, "Was it your desire and expectation that this article should be published?"

"Most assuredly," said Dorlan, manifesting surprise that the editor should deem it necessary to ask such a question.

"Again," said the editor, "are you well acquainted with the moods of your people?"

"It is my impression that few men have studied them more earnestly than I have," said Dorlan.

"I see that I must ask my third question. Thinking that your article would be published, knowing your people, have you exercised foresight enough to have your life insured? If you have not, fail not to do so to-night; for a straw in a whirlwind will account itself blessed in comparison with your lot after this article appears to-morrow morning," said the editor.

"I am content to abide by the consequences of my act," said Dorlan, quietly.

"Your blood be upon your own head," said the editor. This brought the interview to a close and Dorlan took his departure.

The next morning the following seemingly harmless article from the pen of Dorlan Warthell appeared in the paper whose editor we saw pondering it. It ran as follows:

"In the great crisis of the sixties, the Republican party appeared before the sepulchre of the buried manhood of the Negro race, called it forth from the tomb and divested it of the habiliments of the grave. This portentous achievement shook the earth. The pillars of the Republic tottered but were caught within the titantic grasp of the Republican party, which thereupon made the foundations and superstructure more secure than ever before. As long as the ocean mirrors in her bosom the face of the king of day, just so long shall the hearts of the Negroes cherish the memories of the noble army of men who wrought so nobly for humanity.

"To further the ends so righteously sought a party name was adopted and party machinery created by them. When their tasks were done and they had, for the most part, been gathered to their fathers, other leaders arose and began to operate under this same name and with this same machinery. The charge has often been made that we bestow upon these instruments of our salvation the same devotion that we yielded to the creators and original wielders of the instruments. It is said that we blindly follow the party name regardless of those wielding it and the use to which it is put. The charge may be illustrated by the following comparison:

"A noble man does a cripple a kindness. The man dies and a thrifty neighbor comes into possession of the shoes, clothes and hat that he wore at the time of helping the cripple. The neighbor puts on the leavings of the dead man, appears before the cripple and demands his allegiance because of the clothes worn. The cripple yields the devotion asked for, giving evidence that he was ready to consider the dead man and the clothes as one and inseparable. We are charged with acting like unto this cripple, in the matter of rendering devotion to the party name and machinery, the clothes left behind by the men who did the actual work of liberating us.

"In the past we have had no suitable opportunity to clear by an overt act our skirts of the charge which has been exceedingly damaging to our reputation for intelligence; for the policies of the party have been mainly good. But unforeseen circumstances have brought us face to face with the golden opportunity of proving that the picture is overdrawn, that we have not riveted political chains upon ourselves, to take the place of the actual chains torn from us at so fearful a cost. While adding to our own good name we can also do the cause of humanity untold good.

"The Spanish-American war has brought us into contact with many million Filipinos. We must decide what are to be our relations with them. Shall we or shall we not deal with them on the principle that they are and shall ever be regarded as our equals, is the burning question with the American people. The party with which we have hitherto affiliated, claims to be so busily engaged with our present duties on the Islands that they must postpone consideration as to the final status of the people thereof. The Negroes can favor only one solution of the problem, the recognition of the fact that all men are created equal. They should favor no postponement of a decision, having themselves suffered from a postponement that lasted from midnight of July 4th, 1776, un

til January 1st, 1863, the time that elapsed between the promulgation of the declaration that all men are created equal, and the application of that declaration to the American slave.

"In view of the silence of the Republican party upon the question of the ultimate status of the Filipinos, it has been decided to organize a party that will spurn silence, that will insist that 'Old Glory' shall continue to float over human beings that can look each other in the face and shout 'We are all equals; no man among us is, in any sense, less free than another.'

"All American citizens willing to consecrate their political efforts to the attainment of this end are invited to elect delegates to be present at Sinclair Hall on the fifteenth of the incoming month. The Negroes having been the chief sufferers from the non-recognition of the principles for which our new party will stand, are expected to take the lead in the new organization.

"Yours for humanity,

"Dorlan Warthell."

The manifest purpose of Dorlan to withdraw the Negro vote from the Republicans with the view of forming a new party created a profound sensation. It was discussed by white and colored people, was the theme of conversation in the street cars, hotel corridors, stores, barber shops, saloons, brothels, and on every street corner.

There are in the South, men and women, white and colored, who are endeavoring to meet every issue that arises upon the highest possible plane. The sentiments of such people found expression in the following editorial which accompanied Dorlan's pronunciamento. It ran as follows:

"A Negro has been found to display political independence and moral courage of a high order. He has placed himself in a position where the unthinking will liken him unto the serpent that buried its fangs in the bosom that warmed it. None the less, his act is one of marked heroism. While not endorsing his third party scheme (our party is good enough) we endorse the spirit of initiative and independence that prompts it. We would that this spirit of rebellion against party slavery characterized all the voters of the Southland.

"It is an open secret that the great body of the people of both races in the South are prone to regard elections as nothing more nor less than a perennial struggle for supremacy between the two races. This one issue has been allowed to dwarf all other considerations. Indeed, the South is deaf to all appeals, however urgent, to give consideration to the grave questions arising from time to time affecting the welfare of us all and determining our destiny. Such a condition of isolation from the centers of thought activity is deplorable in the extreme.

"Think of it: by birth a man comes into possession of a full set of political opinions. He is born into a condition of intellectual serfdom; the mind dares not to wander by a hair's breadth from the narrow estate of thought on which it is born. He who elects to devote his attention to the questions of State must reduce his mentality to the level of the parrot and feel that his life's work will consist in learning to repeat glibly and without alteration whatever party managers may promulgate. What a crime against the human mind whose native air is freedom, to secure which bonfires have been lighted with the thrones of kings!

"What the South needs is a new emancipation. Her giant minds must be allowed to enter the arena of intellectual conflict unfettered, if they are to bring back to the South her departed glory. The Negroes can help to bring about this emancipation. When they cease to vote en masse; when they cease going to the polls as a mark of gratitude to the invaders of the South who now sleep their last sleep and would discountenance, if they could, the perpetuation of race hatred over past issues; when the sentiment within the Negro race is sufficiently liberal to allow each Negro his manhood right to record with his vote his own best judgment; when, we say, these desirable conditions obtain among the Negroes, we whites will have an opportunity to escape the scourge with which the party magnates herd us together even as gratitude has herded the Negroes.

"With joy we hail the advent of Dorlan Warthell in his new role. May he succeed in inaugurating an era of independent thought among the Negroes. Let us all hope that we are now beholding a streak of dawn, instead of the trail of a falling star, whose soon fading light will leave our skies but the darker. Let us hope that the hour is upon us when the sober torch of reason and not the withering flames of passion, may guide all of our voters, white and colored, to the polls."

There are many people in the South who never read, who never ponder grave questions, but assume the right to wreak vengeance on the heads of those who perchance wander from beaten paths in search of truth. In the above editorial the more enlightened element had spoken; but the unthinking were also to be heard from.

If Dorlan is depending upon his exalted patriotism, his broad love of humanity, his eager, unselfish striving after the good of all-if, we say, he is depending upon these things to shield him from the wrath of those whom his act affronted, let him remember that virtue was no shield to Him whose blood, in the days of yore, anointed the spear of a Roman soldier upon a hillside on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

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