CYCLES OF CIVILIZATION
A friend was kind enough to lend me, some days ago, a copy of the Weekly Times of May 30, 1917, in which there appears a full report of an address delivered by General Smuts at the Savoy Hotel. General Smuts was in England representing South Africa in the recent Imperial Conference. The function at the Savoy Hotel was held under the auspices of men who were, or are, interested in South Africa. Lord Selborne presided and, in introducing the guest of the evening, his speech rang with high compliments.
In the West Indies, when public men speak on race questions they are condemned by some who think they have no right to discuss such questions. This is surprising since, the world over, discussions on race problems are taking places of first importance. Every worthy race is not only jealous of its own development, but of its identity, and the present gory deluge that is let loose upon Europe is, to a remarkable extent, caused by the passion for the preservation of certain national and racial elements and characteristics from the systems that promise to wipe them out of existence. Every section of the human race is justified in taking part in race discussions which intimately concern its particular self, as they concern others, and concern all. Happily, in the British West Indies, we have no race problem worthy of the name. Taken as a unit, the West Indies, in all departments of thought and activity, are a coloured man’s West Indies, the only obstacle to the full realization of our heritage being that so many of us are blind to the value of unity of purpose and direction, and prefer loose and easy compromises which do not make for race identity and dignity. But with all this there can be no “White West Indies “in the sense of a “White South Africa,” the building of which General Smuts, in his speech under review, said is the problem of the hour in his adopted country. The indications of the times point to a great prosperity that shall dawn for the West Indies and a high type of civilization that shall come a-wooing in these parts. And we feel that we are being sufficiently grounded to stand on our rock, keeping the West Indies of the future true to our particular identity.
General Smuts was not condemned when he raised the race question at the Savoy Hotel and predicted its solution according to his cherished idea. His speech was punctuated with applause. No doubt he is an honest man who holds strong and independent convictions, but these qualities are mutual, and others share them, and they, too, should give expression to what they feel.
For the purposes of this section of my small work, I shall quote one paragraph from the speech of General Smuts and make comment on his observations. Other paragraphs will be dealt with in subsequent parts. Says the gallant General:
“Our problem of racial unity is being solved in the midst of the much larger question of the black environment in South Africa. … We know that on the African continent civilization at various times has gained a foothold. You may have read in your books of a University of Timbuctoo. You know of the ruins discovered at Rhodesia and other parts bearing testimony to a great civilization which at one time must have existed there. These civilizations have now disappeared and barbarism is once more in power over that once apparently civilized land.”
The old Boer General, now a full-fledged Britisher, was very miserly in his tribute to the old and past civilization of Africa. Every intelligent reader knows that a spontaneous civilization, for many centuries, flourished in Africa. It held sovereign sway when the inhabitants of England were in the sheerest infancy of human development – when they were unmitigated savages, who fed on the barks and roots of trees, and were scantily clothed with the skins of animals. It took a long time after this before that people took an upward step and became slaves of a great nation and were sold as such. This being the case, it does not seem to meet the point to say that civilization at various times gained a “foothold” In Africa. The impression to be created by such a statement is that, by some accident or other, civilization gained some “foothold” there. It was no “foothold” at all, but a stronghold.
In certain early periods of the world’s civilized history a supreme Coloured Civilization was mothered in Africa and held sway before all the world. Unfortunately, recorded history cannot help us to a full understanding of the true nature of its development, but there is enough evidence to show the most sceptical that that civilization was as great as it was wonderful. The gallant General contributes to this truth by his references to the ruins found in Rhodesia. When Englishmen boast of Cecil Rhodes having built up a civilized Rhodesia out of a mere forest which was inhabited by black men – and Rhodesia is called after him – they do not know what they are saying, for it is being brought to light, more and more that an old “Rhodesia,” perhaps greater than the present one can ever hope to be, existed before. In the ruins which were buried there and elsewhere for centuries are to be found wonderful fragments of art which give glimpses of the high standard of scientific thought to which Africans attained when white men were savages, and before they became slaves. According to General Smuts, who subsequently spoke of the “testimony to a great civilization which must have existed there – it seemed to have been squeezed out of him by hard facts – these civilizations have now disappeared and barbarism is once more in power over that once apparently civilized land.” (Note the miser’s use of the word “apparently” in the preceding sentence, after having admitted the “testimony to a great civilization which must have existed” in Africa.)
It might take a long time, but who can say that it shall not be written of the present day civilized nations of Europe that “barbarism is once more in power” over them? A certain bloody barbarism, the like of which the world has never seen, is in power over Europe even now, but who knows that the extent of the gradual descent will not reach down to depths of darkness unknown? Who knows whether London will not become the capital of a decayed Libya, and Paris of a Persia, and Berlin of a Babylon; and not rest there, but pass on in slow but steady gradations to the fate of “Rhodesia” before the wise forebears of Cecil Rhodes knew that there was such a place? A thousand ages according to our ordinary calendar are but an evening gone judged by the scale of World-Progress. As men look around them, it is only honest to confess that world affairs are far from reaching the finality of the Great Purpose which has threaded itself through the history of mankind. As much as we believe in the greatness and beauty of our British Empire; as much as we are thankful for the contribution which European civilization has made to the cause of human development – let alone its horrors and hypocrisies which have in some measure retarded it – we would be untrue to the highest within us to say that they are likely to remain, world without end, the be-all and end-all of Progress. To say that, we would be uttering blasphemy, since it is tantamount to admitting the sudden bankruptcy of God at this stage in the world’s history. There are illimitable reservoirs of divine resources for the help of Humanity in her upward climb. The thrones, and altars, and chairs of the present are suited to our present understanding, but far greater symbols and realities may be found to fit in with a higher standard of human need and experience. All we have to do is our duty to the present hour with a tendency to intelligent anticipations of the future.
To some extent, the dim future is always under some proper focus by the calcium light of Progress – Progress which goes ever onward and upward. It matters not whether men and nations see things according to that focus. Progress shines on, further and further, with inexorable continuity, unmindful of the wreck and ruin of altered values it leaves behind. Progress is no respecter of persons, traditions, or institutions, for it is what mankind conceives to be the Spirit of God. A very hackneyed quotation is that of Macaulay in which, perhaps with unconscious or unmeant prophecy, he speaks of a New Zealander, in some distant age, standing on the broken arch of London bridge, sketching the ruins of St. Paul’s. This, if it should come to pass, would be a very small event in the cycle of civilization; and so would be the event of a superior Chilean, Brazilian, Negro, or aboriginal Indian in a latter age gathering fungi in the damp devastation of the Reichstag, or beetles where once stood the lofty Campanile of some famous Italian Cathedral. These things may yet be, for the simple reason that greater things have come to pass. Are not the descendants of English savages of ages past doing much the same thing in Africa where a great, perhaps greater, civilization flourished and held sway? The world is travelling at a rapid rate, and in a few years things come to pass which would have taken centuries of time in the long ago.
In fifty modern years Japan has been raised up from a nation of halfblind, insular and self-centered hermits, with no voice in the world, to a great enterprising and vigorous power – a force in international affairs. Just what another fifty or hundred years may bring forth, none of us can say. Which English statesman, a hundred years ago, could have imagined Japan being the honoured and powerful ally of England? Even at the present, there are many who seem to shut their eyes to the significance of the entry of a powerful non-white nation into the governing forces of the world. But wise men have certainly seen a “star in the East, ” even though they are too proud to kneel before the baby Civilization that is being cradled there. Other races and nations can rise to heights of far greater eminence in fifty modern and democratic years. In this connection people of African descent must think nationally like Japan, build ships, found professional chairs, encourage inventions. They that go down to the sea in ships find the power, maritime power makes the people. We must have a fatherland, at next best thing have a great dream of one.
History teaches us that the course of civilization follows the meanderings of improved waterways. There is something in the following which has been put into the mouth of a black man: “I have dredged the Nile that Civilization might bring darkness unto me.” In another sense words may yet be put into such a mouth as follows: I have cut the Panama Canal that Civilization might bring light unto me. From time to time the altering of trade routes and the shifting of centres with the most needed natural and industrial resources for the need of the commercial world have been the means of building up cities from the ruins of the old. It is the same principle with a town, where a new and better road attracts better business or a refined residential population at the expense of the old road. The new civilization that is being cradled in the East promises to be but a twin sister to a new civilization that is also being cradled in the American Continent. The meeting of the Atlantic and Pacific in the Panama Canal may be the means of effecting this joint Civilization which gives promise to flourish in the future. To the material, moral, and national benefit of America, American imagination will have to decide on stretching out the hand of fellowship to the Eastern world, or suffer in consequence. The time seems to be coming when the wealth, the resources, the trade, the political supremacy, the democratic ideal, the conscience of humanity, and the beauty and reality of religion will be overwhelmingly on the side of the twin-civilizations of the American Continent and the East.
Under the enlightened control of Japan, China with her teeming millions, and those possibilities which are frightful of contemplation to the white nations, may again come to the top in this turning of the world cycle, refreshed and mightily vitalized after her sleep of centuries. In that case the darker races, Mongolic, and in an equal measure, Ethiopic, shall spread the new civilization, and material prosperity, which to a large extent, guarantees a people’s power for good, and which shall be reaped by all tropical countries. Africa! It is Africa’s direct turn. Sons of New Ethiopia scattered all over the world, should determine that there shall be new systems of the distribution of opportunities, privileges and rights, so that Africa shall rid herself of many of the murderous highwaymen of Europe who have plundered her, raped her, and left her hungry and naked in the broad light of the boasted European civilization, Africa would then be free again to raise her head among other races of the earth and enrich humanity as she has done before. Already she is in an economic position which insures the highest standard of production for the world’s needs. Africa is getting to hold the economic balance of power which is always greater than the military balance of power, and which, in fact, controls all power. Just how far Africa at home and abroad is determined to share in the great benefit remains to be seen.
The American continent is already attracting large numbers of peoples from the various European nations. This wonderful migration is a certain gauge of the transition that is taking place. As the years roll by larger numbers shall be attracted to this side of the Atlantic, some for adventure, some by curiosity, but the bulk of them under the impulse of definite protest against the things left behind. Many shall be found only too willing to leave all excess political baggage behind, all threadbare garments of old philosophies, all stale and worn-out beliefs, and mingle with new conditions and melt down into the plastic circumstances of a higher civilization. India, with her spiritual outlook, seems destined to contribute to the vitalizing spirit of the new order. This new Civilization, tempered with the religious faiths of India, shall be Christian, nevertheless, for we can hardly call European civilization a Christian one. There never was a Christian civilization in the full sense of the term. Christianity, to some extent, controlled, and is controlling, European thought, but on the whole, what passes for such is largely a system of compromise with unchristian pride and ambition. The Christ is yet to be universalized by religious systems. He has been Europeanized, it is true, but Europe is a part, at present a small part, and in the future may be a smaller part of the world.
Even the very paintings and other accepted works of art show the Christ as a white man and as a European. The European world gladly accepts the picture of Christ which is reproduced from the prejudiced vision of Leonardo da Vinci. The tendency seems to lie in the direction of a real grudge because Christ was not born in Europe. The Virgin Mary, should she come back to earth, would never be able to recognize the son born of her womb in the current paintings and pictures. As an infant she would not know Him, as, by the brush of some European master-painter, he is portrayed in the Manger surrounded by dear little European angels, just from heaven, and white as the driven snow! The virgin would not be able to know herself in the setting from the figure of a German Fraulein who perhaps posed as a pious model for an eccentric painter. Surely, she would not know her son as a man after being treated by brush and palette to clear blue eyes, with complexion to match, and hair of waving gold! A humorist once said: “Circumstances alter faces,” and in this connection it is cunningly true. Is it that Europe is ashamed to own the Christ as he was in the flesh? This deception does not rest with the physical feature, but is just a counterpart of the twisted teachings and principles which bear His name. He who taught Love and Brotherhood and the fraternity of Grace is used as a justification for the domination and subjugation of subject peoples, and for this pliability songs of glory are lifted to His Name! The Christian civilization is yet to come, which means the love of man for man everywhere, and, wherever there is the capacity for response, the principle of brotherhood in all participations in human gifts and enjoyments.
The various races of the world are various instruments of a great World-Purpose for the fashioning of a Great To-Be. As in the building of some great edifice all the tools cannot be used at the same time, so it is with World-building. They cannot all be used at the same time since order and not confusion is the guiding principle of human evolution and development. Certain races, like certain tools and instruments, are used for a time and put by for a while until their turn comes again. The great Negro Race has had its turn, and its turn is coming again. World events are to continue shaping themselves yet a little more, and then the Builder shall use the instrument He has made, all in His own good time. Black men were the first freemasons of civilization. The Negro race was the masonic instrument used in the laying of the very foundations of the world’s civilized history. Other races, now in a state of backwardness, have had their turn even while the white race comprised so many hordes of savages. That race is having its turn. It has dressed, decorated and embellished the edifice of human development which was started in its age-long ascent long before that race bore any relation of consciousness to the worth of the human development it has adorned – adorned with not a few brutal disfigurements. Other races shall succeed it in its leading part in the work, and we will know and feel that yet again the earlier instruments of the foundations and of its Sachem and Boaz, will be used somewhere in the finishing of the temple in order to crown the whole with dignified completeness.
Savages and slaves, saints and seers, all men of all races have been, or may be, according to the World-Plan. It is not ours to solve. Coloured people should not necessarily drift with the temporary current of existing racial values, but should learn to know themselves and to be themselves. Figuratively speaking, they should burnish their ancient tools and instruments and keep their edges keen for any eventuality when they might be taken up again as worthy for the hand of the Great Designer and Architect of All.
The great noise of this war indicates the rumbling of a change of instruments in world-fashioning. There must be other, and other, wars, if other instruments are not allowed to enter upon their appointed work in peace. In such an event, one of these greater wars shall take place in Africa, for the seething millions there are materials for strong and virile coloured nations. General Smuts may well give expression to his pregnant fear as he did at the Savoy Hotel. After the war, Leagues of Peace will prove themselves other “scraps of paper” if they are not based on a Divine League of Human Opportunity. Browning said: “God’s in His Heaven, all’s right with the world” – but it is better spiritual knowledge to be able to say, God’s in His World, all’s right with heaven.
CYCLES OF CIVILIZATION
Dr. Scholes, a Negro author, in his work, “Glimpses of the Ages,” says: “Like great waves of the ocean Greece advanced, rose to an amazing height of intellectual splendour, broke upon the shores of inanition, and receded to rejoin the quiescent mass, Humanity, whence it had emerged. Rome with a genius differing from that of Greece, had, in the fierceness of her terrible energy, similarly advanced, risen, spent herself, retired to be succeeded by modern Europe. ” That is quite the principle of World-Progress. The eternal discipline is not relaxed. The last chapter of modern Europe’s history shall be written at the close of her cycle, which, the world feels instinctively, is not by any means far off. On the great shore of the future, waves of Empire and out-worn civilizations are to be broken to form other receding currents, while the irresistible gathering of new forces, new races, new ideals, makes ready for a new advance.
Already modern Europe is not in a very hopeful position. Italy, whose geographical shape is like a boot, is, at the present stage, a useless odd-side boot of little use for marching purposes to real progress. Portugal, after a meteoric flight across the horizon of human ideals is, no matter her past coruscations, a lost light in her own contrast of quivering darkness. Spain, to use the phrase of a great man, is already “a stranded whale on the coast of Europe.” The romantic structure of France, which crumbled since the French Revolution, can never, never, be rebuilt. There are many beautiful fragments in her ruins which all men admire, nevertheless, and many a well-rounded and beautifully chiseled block may be used as a key-stone or else in the building of the new civilization. But the original France, as a self-contained force and an executive power in the conduct of world affairs, can never rise again. The Balkan States and, in a large measure, Austria, never were, and never shall be. They failed to leave any favourable impress on the development of Humanity when modern Europe had a plastic civilization to deal with, and they are not likely to do so now that civilization is not sensitive to feeble touches. There is perhaps no parallel in modern times to the backward condition of the Balkan States and Austria, which places, though having the advantage of the chariot of European progress, could not ride with progress, but had to be hitched on and dragged through the centuries. Compare this with the rise of Japan, or better still, the rise of the Negro in the United States and in the West Indies. Both these fallow peoples, in a few short years, have shown remarkable ability and adaptability. The former, aided by beneficent circumstances, now boast a great, powerful nation, and the latter show no less than that, given equal opportunity, they can build themselves into a progressive people. The Scandinavian countries, and surrounding states, have played their parts well, but they have long bowed before the world and taken their respective exits in the play of Modern Europe, and we hear but faint whispers from them, behind the curtain, behind the scenes, which have no relation to the reception of new ideas. They might be good “prompters” to others who are at present before the footlights, but their days are gone as well as their Vikings.
Russia, in all modern history, there is no people to form the modern Russian prototype. Semi-oriental in territory and thought, she has been halting in a curious shadow-land between light and darkness, and never really adopted the current of Modern Civilization, nor could have been forced to accept it. For centuries she has been a nation of blind giants – blind giants physically, and blind in intellect and in moral and aesthetic qualities – blinded artificially by the cruel bandages of autocracy. But Russia is now opening her eyes, stretching her sinews, and measuring her strong arms. Of all the European countries, Russia seems to be the only one with a bright and long future. Russia is unused material. She can be a basis for the spread of new races, with an unchallenged gateway in the Mediterranean, and a gateway to the new glories of the Far East. The unused Russian material will be found to be of importance in strengthening the promising structure of India, and mutual influences for good are likely to be experienced between Russia and the rising countries of the East. An educated, democratic, stable and free Russia, with its inherent strength, great latent resources, and potential wealth, will be the opponent of the age-long superstitions and oppressions which largely constitute the traditions of modern Europe, and will be the means of promoting a more equal condition of manhood for the races of mankind.
Germany is doomed; the weeping stars are in chorus with the plaint; and, with Germany, European civilization is also doomed. Take it as we will, Germany represented a high type of the principles of European civilization. Before the war, before it was good patriotism, or good conscience, to call her cruel and filthy names, we must remember that her praises were sung in every European city; her scholarly pre-eminence was acknowledged and worshipped; her commercial and industrial organizations wondered at by envious eyes, and her scientific utility regarded as a sign of the superiority of the white race. All these have changed; a scratch of the white skin has revealed underneath the cruellest and most loathsome form of savage ever known to mankind! For centuries to come, the darker races shall have a word of retort which seemed to have been put into their mouths by God Himself – He who “fulfils Himself in many ways.” The doom of European civilization is being sounded on the battlefield of Europe. There is a great thundering out of the old and a thundering in of the new. Europe, in the utmost development of its grown madness of intra-national ambition and pride, is committing deliberate suicide – a suicide with every mark of that unerring retributive discipline which can be traced all through the pages of history. In the crumbling of European civilization, Great Britain, the bulwark of most of the things that are noblest and best in the present order shall, as the night the day, follow in the wake of the great empires before her, and, like them, cease to be an executive authority in the conduct of the business of the world, though, for all time, her virtues, in assimilation with all that is best from other nations and empires, will contribute to the direction of the growing purpose of humanity.
The British Empire is become far too unwieldy for guidance by a common spirit. United in spirit in war and disunited in peace, may be the verdict of tomorrow. Dangerous complications are being fostered which, intensified, spell ruin. There are strong indications that certain parts of the Empire will not be able to endure, for long, certain monstrous inequalities of the British order, and on racial grounds is this wonderful Empire of ours likely to break up, if the justice, liberty, and righteousness, which are the alleged principles for which Great Britain is at war, have but a purely Belgian meaning and are not applicable even to those whom the Belgians mutilated and murdered in their greedy rubber-grabbing! The rocks ahead on which the waves of the British Empire are heading to spend themselves are the Rocks of Race. The irresistible rise of darker races shall be accomplished, even on the heads of the proud Anglo-Saxon if they do not make room. This is not, by any means, to be regarded as Cassandric prophecy. It is not prophecy at all, but a considered view of the revolution of the cycles of civilization, and the rise and fall of nations and peoples. It is looking at human betterment in the broad light of the purpose of the ages.
The cycle of centuries is bringing the needle to a new pole – we might say to the original pole. Greece it was who introduced civilization into Europe, but from what source did Greece draw her successful virtues? From where did Greece acquire knowledge of geometry and astronomy? Where did she learn the principles of organized government, agriculture, medicine, the institution of marriage – the art of conveying thought through the means of written symbols, even the very alphabet itself? Did not Greece get all these things from Egypt? And has it not been proved that not only were the Egyptians as a whole of Negro origin but were largely Negroes? The Bible, called “an everlasting rock in the black man’s defence, ” bears evidence to this; also profane history, and the discoveries of science. The Psalms are full of evidences which connect Egypt with Ethiopia and with Ham, and the Book of Canticles is said to be “an allegory, based upon Solomon’s affection for his beautiful black wife the daughter of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. ” Why paint and rouge, scrape and bleach to conceal the skin (colour) of the ancients of fame, and the trying to look like the skin of a people which have not a history?
In these days of artificial study, we find writers who prefer to quote any nonsense from secular works instead of from the Bible, that old treasure-house of so much history, scientific knowledge and high moral standards. That the Ancient Egyptians were black men, or mostly black men, “sons of Ham,” the Psalmist assures us without a doubt. In the seventy-eighth Psalm, fifty-first verse, in connection with the history of the children of Israel in Egypt, we read the words:
And smote all the first-born in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham.
In the one hundred and sixth Psalm, verses twenty-one and twenty-two, we are told:
They forgat God their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt; Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things the Red Sea.
We read in verse twenty-three of the one hundred and fifth Psalm, and verses twenty-six and twenty-seven of the same:
Israel also came out of Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. He sent Moses his servant and Aaron whom he had chosen. They showed His signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham.
The above show, without doubt, that the Egyptians who held the children of Israel in bondage were sons of Ham – black people – and science, the investigating light of secular history, which day by day is proving the Bible correct in its historical features, has endorsed the information given by the Psalmist.
The sixty-eighth Psalm should be incorporated in a special African Te Deum for it is strong prophecy of her future greatness and the greatness of a better world. General Smuts should read this Psalm through. I quote a few passages:
Let God arise; let His enemies be scattered; let them also that hate Him flee before Him.
As the smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan: an high hill as the high hill of Bashan.
Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea the Lord will dwell in it for ever.
Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.
But, lastly comes the prophecy in that thrilling Psalm:
Princes shall come out of Egypt, and Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.
Sing ye unto God, ye kingdoms of the Earth; 0 sing praises unto the Lord; to Him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo! He doth send out His voice, and that a mighty voice.
Though many try to suppress the fact – the stubborn fact remains that black men have an old, old history which stretches back even to the twilight of Time. The Bible records it, and historians, like Rollin in his Ancient History, prove that those men in Egypt and Ethiopia – the land of Ham – and elsewhere, were as lofty pyramids when compared with the proud haystacks of the present age. As modern science marches along, half-blindly, she finds herself stumbling on “discoveries” which put the best efforts of present achievements to shame. But buried in the bosom of earth many valuable secrets are hidden which may never be revealed.
I have quoted the Bible, but in addition there is Josephus. In his “Antiquity of the Jews” I read of how Moses, as an Egyptian general, made war with the Ethiopians, who were powerful rivals and “next neighbors to the Egyptians.” Ethiopia, lying to the south of Egypt, in great measure participated in fashioning the civilization of the Egyptians. Further than this, Rollin tells us that Ethiopian kings reigned in Egypt. Sabachus was the first, and sat on the throne after six preceding reigns of Egyptian kings. He reigned for fifty years. Then there is Zerah, another Ethiopian, who was King of Ethiopia and Egypt at the same time. He “made war on Asa, King of Judah. His army consisted of a million men and three hundred chariots of war.” And there is Sethon, son of Sabachus, already mentioned. He reigned for fourteen years. There is a memorable incident connected with his reign.
When Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians, after defeating many surrounding nations occupied the cities of Judah, and threatened Hezekiah in Jerusalem, despite the opposition of Isaiah it was felt necessary by Hezekiah to send “secretly to the Ethiopians for succour. Their armies being united, marched to the relief of Jerusalem.” Sennacherib won a temporary victory over Hezekiah and the Ethiopians, and it was taken to mean that the lesson of defeat was because Hezekiah did not trust God only, but put his faith in the help of the strong armies of Ethiopia. The historian tells us that Tharaca, from Ethiopia, joined Sethon, the Ethiopian King of Egypt, in the expedition against Sennacherib in Jerusalem’s behalf. After the death of Sethon, Tharaca ascended the throne of Egypt and was the last man from Ethiopia who reigned in Egypt. The following is significant:
“After his death, the Egyptians, not being able to agree about the succession, were two years in a state of anarchy, during which there were disorders and confusions among them.”
This shows that the Ethiopian break left a gap which it was hard to bridge. It is on record that during the reign of the Ethiopian kings in Egypt the nation prospered and developed in every department. Sabachus, the first purely Ethiopian King of Egypt, entered Egypt “with a numerous army and possessed himself of it.” We are told by Rollin: “He reigned with great clemency and justice. Instead of putting to death such criminals as had been sentenced to die by the judges, he made them repair the causeways on which the respective cities to which they belonged were situated. He built magnificent temples, and, among the rest, one in the city of Bubastus, of which Herodotus gives a long and elegant description. ” “It is believed that this Sabachus was the same with So, whose aid was implored by Hosea, King of Israel, against Shalmaneser, King of Assyria. ” (2 Kings XVII 4).
It is being felt that Ethiopia bids fair to justify the vision of the Psalmist: “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God” and receive the seals of Divine Commission.
In dealing with Egypt, it is due to state that coloured men in Egypt gave to Greece the truth of the immortality of the soul, which was in turn handed down by Greece to others. We are sometimes apt to forget that in Egypt there was a black man’s seat of learning, the greatest the world has ever seen, and that men like “Homer, Pythagoras, and Plato; even its great legislators, Lycurgus and Solon,” went over from Greece and studied there. The historian tells us that “God himself has given this kingdom a glorious testimony; when praising Moses, he says of him, that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”
Mark Twain, in his book, “Innocents Abroad,” takes us for a trip around the world in order to make us laugh at peoples, places and things to our heart’s content. He succeeds to a remarkable extent. Nothing in Europe seems to be too protected and revered by tradition and sanctity to escape the great humorist’s fun-making. Underlying this fun-making, however, we feel a lofty rebellion of the author’s spirit against vulgar Custom which, covered with age, parades as Truth; and there is well merited ridicule also, all of which, (after making allowances for exaggeration, which is necessary to caricature) is more or less decidedly instructive and entertaining. He takes us over to the African Continent and we expect him to indulge in hearty fun there. But, strange to say, Mark Twain finds that he is on sacred ground. He takes off his shoes and goes along with humble, reverent tread, recognizing that he is brought into touch with the source of the good of all ages. As we go along with him, we reach Morocco, and instead of fun and jest, we hear him speak of Tangier as follows:
“What a funny old town it is! It seems profanation to laugh and jest, and bandy the frivolous chat of the day amid its hoary relics. Only the stately phraseology and measured speech of the sons of the Prophet are suited to a venerable antiquity like this. Here is a crumbling wall that was old when Columbus discovered America; was old when Peter the Hermit roused his knightly men of the Middle Ages to arm for the first Crusade; was old when Charlemagne and his paladins beleaguered enchanted castles and battled with giants and genii in the fabled days of olden time; was old when Christ and his disciples walked the earth; stood where it stands today when the lips of Memnon were vocal, and men were bought and sold in the streets of ancient Thebes. Here is a ragged, oriental looking Negro from some desert place in interior Africa, filling his goat skin with water from a stained and battered fountain built by the Romans twelve hundred years ago. Yonder is a ruined arch of a bridge built by Julius Caesar nineteen hundred years ago. Men who had seen the infant Saviour in the Virgin’s arms have stood upon it, may be. Near it are the ruins of a dockyard where Caesar repaired his ships and loaded them with grain when he invaded Britain, fifty years before the Christian era. Tangier has been mentioned in history for 3,000 years. And it was a town, though a queer one, when Hercules, clad in his loinskins, landed there four thousand years ago.”
The humorist, after rising to such heights of serious eloquence, goes back to his work of fun-making, though there is little material in Africa for such work. But a question comes to the lips, and it is this: Shall it not be written of Nigeria, and of the Congo, of the Cameroons, of East Africa, of South Africa, and the rest, as it is written of Tangier? The ruins of Roman bridges and fountains are all that remain there in mocking memory of the cycle that was; and similarly it may be, it shall be, that in some future age other mocking memories in Africa will give but their ghostly ideas of this cycle of modern Europe, which already is passing, passing. History seems to say in eloquent terms that Europe cannot imprison Africa.
But if Mark Twain, in leaving his vulgar province of fun, rose to heights of respectful admiration for Tangier, what about Egypt – mother Egypt? Guided by his curious pen, we make light-hearted excursions to places of interest in Egypt, and we leave that wonderful land without hearing the tribute that is due to the first Widow of the World’s ideal. But has our leader nothing to say? Yes. After leaving Egypt, Mark Twain is bound to make his heart’s open confession. He says:
“We were glad to have seen the land which was the mother of civilization – which taught Greece letters and through Greece Rome, and through Rome, the world. We were glad to have seen that land which had an enlightened religion with future eternal rewards and punishments in it while even Israel’s religion contained no promise of a hereafter. We were glad to have seen that land which had glass three thousand years before England had it, and could paint upon it as none of us can paint now; that land which knew, three thousand years ago, well nigh all the medicine and surgery which science has discovered lately; which had all these curious surgical instruments which science has invented recently; which had in high excellence a thousand luxuries and necessities of an advanced civilization which we have gradually contrived and accumulated in modern times and claimed as things that were new under the sun; that had paper untold centuries before we dreamt of it; that had a perfect system of common schools so long before we boasted such an achievement in that direction that it seems forever and forever ago; that so embalmed the dead that flesh was made almost immortal – which we cannot do; that built temples which mock at destroying time and smile grimly upon our lauded little prodigies of architecture; that old land that knew all that we know now, perchance, and more; that walked in the broad highway of civilization in the gray dawn of creation, ages and ages before we were born.”
That same Egypt is now subjected to the authority of Great Britain – a country of savages in the mere yesterday of time. Such is the eternal discipline! The cycles revolve so that men may evolve. Every new civilization inherited useful capital from those preceding, and every succeeding cycle gained in moral momentum and spiritual fixity. The revolving and the evolving, even the devolving, are yet to continue in divine disregard to the greatness of Empires and existing institutions. This is clearly pointed out by the finger of History.
In that same Egypt, our brothers from the West Indies are encamped today as soldiers of the British Empire. They, with others, have offered to die for Righteousness and Right, so that the moral energy of this civilization might be preserved for the benefit of future generations and civilizations. At the side of Britons, Australians, New Zealanders, and others, many of “Our Boys” – as from the heights of the Pyramids the greatness of three thousand centuries looks down upon them – are sufficiently instructed to know that, Negro as they are, they are of the direct blood of those who, in that same Egypt, actually framed and designed the future of the world.
Greece drew milk and nurture from the Egyptian breast through which she became the towering force of her day. She built up a beautiful and a wonderful civilization, the effects of which are still being felt although Greece is dead. When Paul, on Mars Hill, spoke to her intellectuals concerning the coming power and glory of a poor despised Man who was crucified as a criminal in a remote corner called Calvary, they no doubt laughed at his madness; they could not feel the nearing of their cycle of civilization to its appointed end. Who was Paul, and what his preaching, compared with Phidias, and with the wisdom and philosophy of the Parthenon? What greater message of Beauty could there be in the Cross compared with the sculpture, either in their sublime statues, or in their Doric columns and Ionic pillars so exquisitely wrought? What more glorious Kingdom in the world for refined intellect, for heart and soul, that could surpass the glories of the plain of Attica, the pride of the goddess Athene? Again, when Peter, with a few hunted and straggling followers essayed to preach to the Romans of a coming power in the world that would be greater than the greatness of the Caesars – aye and preached it in the very midst of the splendour and pomp and riotous revelry of Rome – the Romans did not feel the check of their cycle. In their savage sport, drunk with power and triumph, their golden cars heavy with the costly spoils of conquest, they threw the impudent Christians to the lions in the arena to make a joyful Roman holiday. To the music of lutes and lyres, citharas and cymbals, the harp and the conch, and other musical instruments from conquered states the singing in the Coliseum of “Ave, Caesar imperator! Morituri te salutant! ” drowned the small voice of “Christus Regnat” which spoke of decay, and insisted on the power of moral spirit to overcome the terrible might of Roman swords. But intellectual Greece has vanished and Imperial Rome is but a memory. Similarly, men may laugh at the thought that there can be a new power in the world, greater than the greatness of Great Britain, and of Europe as a whole. Like the Grecian philosophers, they may laugh at the idea that a poor crucified Race shall rise in power and glory and be one of the highest leading influences in human affairs; but this cycle shall be checked and other cycles shall roll on notwithstanding. And, as in the case of Rome, so it is today. The applause and cheers which greeted certain parts of the speech of General Smuts may drown the small voice of human rights, but a giant spirit of Democracy and Socialism is coming to do God’s work of “a levelling up and a levelling down.”
It was long after the setting of Africa’s Royal Age that we find, among others, Britons and Africans, fellows in chains under the Romans, the only difference being that the Africans were far more intelligent, dignified, and refined. There is reason for this, since prior to this period Africans experienced extensive and civilized culture, while the Britons were rude, raw material, new to light. A historian says that Rome’s African slaves were “proud.” They no doubt felt they had great blood in their veins, and rightly too. Another authority says that they were “vain.” The reason being, perhaps, that they were accustomed to wear costly and beautiful garments, while the Britons were clothed in a careless, primitive, and untutored design, even the sheer skins of animals. The following is a portraiture of the Roman slaves of the period: “The Phrygian was timid, the African vain, the Cretan mendacious, the Dalmatian ferocious, the Briton stupid, the Scythian strong, the Ionian beautiful, the Alexandrian accomplished and luxurious.” What a gathering!
Just as Rome’s far-flung empire broke up; just as her patricians could not keep a large portion of the peoples of the world in physical slavery, so no nation, or set of nations, will be able to keep a larger part in moral slavery in defiance of the divine order of the sweep of civilization. General Jan Christian Smuts, Boer yesterday and British today, raised to the dignity of being a member of Britain’s Imperial Conference to discuss with others the conduct of Empire, may well amuse his mind with impracticable dreams since neither he, nor the whole Empire, can close the ever-broadening floodgates of Liberty and Light which, like the rain, are for the benefit of the just and the unjust. In his remarkable speech at the Savoy Hotel, he outlined a programme for the suppression of Africans in the interest of white members of the Empire, and was mad enough to say that it was prompted by stern necessity. One of the Caesars was just as mad as General Smuts appears to be, and he had greater power at his command. He could not prevent the operation of the cyclic law – not all the Praetorians and legions could have brought back the receding pendulum in the oscillation of world events which, in swinging in the opposite direction, carried vital power from Rome as it swung in order to bless other nations.
CYCLES OF CIVILIZATION
Our problem is a very difficult one, and quite unique in its way. In the United States you have an overwhelming white population with a much smaller Negro population. But in South Africa the situation is reversed. There you have an overwhelming black population with a small white population which is doing its best to make its footing for the future. You can understand a problem like that is not only uncertain in its ultimate solution, but it is most difficult in the procedure which has to be followed for its solution. I do not know that we have gone very far in solving it hitherto. There are things in which we have come to a solid basis. You may remember a time in the early 19th century when Christian Missionaries went to South Africa. They believed in the doctrine of the French Revolution and of equality and fraternity, and they married native wives in accordance with that point of view. We have got beyond that point of view now.
“There are certain axioms which have been laid down in regard to the black and the white races. One is that there must be no intermixture of blood. All previous civilizations on the African Continent have failed because that principle was never recognized. The superior civilizing force was lost in the quicksands of African blood. Our forefathers, both English and Dutch, have been strong on that point with the result that to an unexpectedly large extent the white blood has remained pure in South Africa, and it has become axiomatic that it is a dishonourable thing, and counter to our whole traditions, that there shall be any inter-mixture of white and black blood.” – General Smuts.
One of the most treasured human experiences is that the candid, open enemy to an individual, institution, people, nation or race is of far greater moral and constructive value to that individual, institution, people, nation or race, than the hidden hypocrite under the fair disguise of a friend. General Smuts, therefore, by his open declarations against the free human development of the South African natives, and his bold outline of subjugation and segregation in the interest of a “White South Africa,” furnishes a great contributive element to the ultimate success of the real and natural South Africa. Men like Raymond Blathwayt and General Smuts are needed in greater numbers to stir a large section of the world’s peoples to a condition of moral mobilization for their own forward movement. The British Empire seems to need just a few more General Smutses in various parts of Africa, India, and the West Indies, and other places, to settle the Empire upon firmer, stronger and more equal foundations or, as the old Boer would have it, upon nothing at all.
It is of positive value to note, especially in the midst of this great war which holds in issue the destiny of the human race as a whole, that the British Imperial Conference, which has been sitting to decide on the future conduct and control of the Empire, has found a member to stand up in London and tell the world that it is an object of iron necessity to discourage the free development of South African natives in their natural home! Without disguise, without the cloak of good intentions over corrupt ambitions, General Jan Christian Smuts has said this, thus showing himself, even in a certain ecstasy of glory, a champion oppressionist who is not afraid of the expression of his opinions. There is a ring of “pure Potsdam” that seems to haunt the General’s words. People had long begun to think that one of the greatest results of the war would be a greater national righteousness and freedom, with less of the spirit of domination, but here we have a member of the Imperial Conference of the British Empire saying, in effect, to all such dreamers of future righteousness. “Be ye not duped. After all is said and done, a way must be ‘hacked through’ in South Africa at any cost by the ‘small white population which is doing its best to make its footing for the future.’ Go to! ye Christian Missionaries who believe in ‘equality and fraternity,’ ‘the doctrines of the French Revolution,’ or the Sermon on the Mount – ‘we have got beyond that point of view now.’ ” – Beyond it, or behind it? It seems to depend on other points of view.
I do not intend to deal with General Smuts’ remarks as quoted at the head of this contribution at any length. As can be seen, they are in a state of civil war in themselves, and, in a general sense, are in impudent hostility to facts, national righteousness and progress. The first paragraph, especially, is simply a jumble of words wickedly thrown together. I wonder what Lord Selborne, Lord Milner and Dr. Leander Starr Jameson thought of that part of the speech as they sat and listened.
A kind of comparison was made between the “problem” in the United States and the “problem” in South Africa. But in South Africa, we are told, the problem is “quite unique in its way.” Really, it is “quite unique” to draw contrasts as General Smuts has done. “In the United States you have an overwhelming white population with a much smaller Negro population” says General Smuts, but he does not pause to state facts. Why did he not make the only point, by recognizing the fact that in the United States the majority of the population (white) is rightly in control of that country? In certain cases where the minority comes into conflict with the aims of that majority, there is savage and merciless control. He should have gone thus far in order to make the contrast with South Africa, where “the position is reversed.” Why is it that the minority of Negroes in the United States, where they were carried as slaves, constitute a problem of subjugation, and the majority of Negroes in South Africa where their ancient forefathers were born, constitute a greater and “unique” problem? Is there to be no place under the sun, home included, where Negroes are to experience free human development? Is it that whether in minority or majority, whether in their own land, or in the land of others, the “problem” is to suppress their higher growth? Time will tell; the wheels of the new cycle of civilization which, in its coming, “grind slowly yet grind exceedingly small,” will give the answer, as answers have been given in past ages. General Smuts himself admits that the “problem is not only uncertain in its ultimate solution but it is most difficult in the procedure which has to be followed for its solution” – that is, in his procedure of oppression.
That part of General Smuts’ remarks in condemnation of Christian Missionaries who laboured in South Africa in the early 19th century should be read, learnt, and inwardly digested by every coloured man; and I hope it will find an echo in many a Christian pulpit. We are told that South Africa – and other parts of Africa as I am able to gather – has succeeded in getting the new type of Missionaries who do not believe in human “equality and fraternity.” There are churches in South Africa which no black man can enter. No wonder the leaders of South African natives are warning their people to reject the Christianity that is being offered to them by the “Christian” Missionaries of General Smuts’ liking. It is a corruption of Christianity, and the Christ preached is a European “Christ” manufactured in theological seminaries under the influences of Imperial lust and flagspreading. I am now beginning to understand what an eminent Negro thinker meant when he said that, while Christianity is the best religion for Negroes in the United States and in the West Indies, for the present, at least, the successful future of the seething millions in Africa is bound up with the future of Mohammedanism. Away with Christ! Away with Him if He is not the elder brother of every human being, and give us, in His stead, Barabbas! Away with Missionaries, priests, parsons, and pastors who are too good to be our real brothers here in this corrupt world, but tell us that, when it pleases God, we shall be their brothers – in heaven! I do hope, and millions no doubt hope, that the Christianity of General Smuts is strictly confined to Missionary operations in Africa, and that in time the religion of the humble Man of Nazareth shall enlighten the greater darkness which threatens to pervade the “Dark Continent.”
I have no real quarrel with the gallant General with regard to the “axioms which have been laid down in regard to the black and the white races,” and I offer him joy in that “it has become axiomatic that it is a dishonourable thing . . . that there should be any inter-mixture of white and black blood!” That it has grown at length to become a “dishonourable thing” for the whites in South Africa to deflower African maidens, as in darker days they did in the West Indies and in the United States, we have to thank the stars of a better world. If there is silence, it is not ignorant silence concerning the dishonourable practices of years gone by. The African slaves of the white man were schooled in his immorality. But General Smuts should have been fair enough to state that certain leaders of African natives hold his opinion, and also look upon it as highly dishonourable, and counter to their traditions that there should be any intermixture of white and black blood. This is due to many reasons, whether of racial pride, or racial purity, or else. Does he not know of African students who return to their homes with white wives only to lose caste and to be banished under disgrace? Just as in the temple of the Moors “no white Christian dogs can enter, ” is it not the same in certain preserves of Africans that the whites, who are rightly or wrongly regarded as an inferior race, and even looked upon with contempt and loathing, cannot be brought into intimate African Company? I am arguing the point along the lines laid down by General Smuts and with no rancour or bitterness.
Certain African Chiefs, who trace their history far back into the past, are, no doubt, in entire sympathy with General Smuts on the matter of no intermixture of blood. To them, untouched by the European bias of racial virtues, it is no less dishonourable, and quite as counter to their whole traditions, to mix their ancient blood in the manner condemned by the General. Witness the great physical fitness and endurance of African natives as compared with the lank, wheezy-chested specimens of whites to be found in European cities! Surely, from a physical standpoint the African has nothing to gain by intermixture of blood. To the real African there is little to gain from a social standpoint. There are millions of swarthy gladiators in Africa in whose blood there is no taint of the European diseases which menace the manhood of Europe and of the world, and even of little Grenada. The axiom of General Smuts which is in line with the best native African thought, will serve to keep a large section of the world’s peoples in a pure physical condition in order that they may grapple successfully with the great industrial feats of the world’s future, and build greater monuments to their power than the pyramids raised by them ages and ages ago. In a physical sense, European civilization in Africa means “European syphillization” and worse, and if General Smuts can, by his established axiom, help to keep the millions of Africans pure, the world of to-morrow shall be benefited. When there is work to do in the future; when there are mountains to be made low, valleys to be filled, mighty stones to be hewn from the quarries, and, under a tropical sun, lifted high into the air; forests to be cleared, fields to be set a-laughing with grain; cities to be built in the swamps and deserts; continents to be cut – in that time there shall be a reasonably pure race of workers eminently fitted to take part in Labour’s great day.
The future of Africans is assured. They live together in their country, in their millions and millions, healthy and strong, and experiencing no alarm in birth-rate. From time to time they have been butchered, it is true, but the fact remains that they cannot be exterminated. They are waiting for their own Tomorrow. Their physical fitness is one of the signs of immortality. Already, it is made clear that they are to be numbered among the very first survivals of earth’s peoples to take a full share in the benefits of the larger world. It is a blessing that Africans are among the healthiest of earth’s peoples. Health of the body is a pre-requisite to health of the mind.
The problem of how to suppress the Africans, and keep them apart and in check, is bigger than General Smuts and his “white South Africa” can ever hope to solve. I am thankful for the phrase, “lost in the quicksands of African blood.” Africa, not only in the blood of its natives, but in every particular, is the land of “quicksands” for Europe. “The superior civilizing force” of the present day may find its “quicksands” not in the strain of blood, but of thought, and in the Pentecost of gathered protest. Any monument of European influence that is being built in Africa is in opposition to the real rights of the natives and in defiance of righteousness and liberty is a vain experiment to be “lost in the quicksands.”
General Smuts should receive the thanks of black South Africa for his out-spokenness in his Savoy speech, and in a certain measure the thanks of coloured people everywhere. But is it possible that the cause for which Great Britain fights is compatible with the views of this old Boer? General Smuts is Dutch by blood, but shall “Empire” be the theme in a “Dutch Concert” in which every person is said to lead his own tune regardless of the parts of the other singers in the chorus? If Empire can prosper in this way, then I’m a Dutchman, in the full idiomatic sense of the term. For the sake of artificial unity, must the British Empire be a mass of moral incongruities, as has been laid down as doctrine in Australia, Canada, and South Africa, in conflict with other parts? Is England, the centre and soul of Empire, in sympathy with the waywardness of these her grown children? Is it that this gradual submission to the greater vigour of her children is but a sign of gradual decay? Almost without the consent of the Mother Country, the powerful nation-colonies of the Empire are taking the initiative in the control and direction of British policy and ideals, and it is to be noted that the trend of that policy and those ideals is to the reverse of what her thinkers lived for, and her soldiers, sailors and martyrs died for – the truths for which England stood in the past; the truths that built up her greatness and power, and made her the darling of Providence, and the salt of the nations of the earth.
CYCLES OF CIVILIZATION
I have been reminded by a critic that, in considering the Negro’s place in the next cycle of civilization, I should not lose sight of the serious moral drawbacks of the Negro race.
“No race can ever hope to rise above the standard of its women,” I am told. “It is a sad fact that the women of your race are not held in high honour by the men. There is always a tendency for the men to ‘look down upon’ the women of the station from which they have sprung. And the quietly accepted condition of illegitimacy in which such a large number of Negro offspring is cast, offers no indication that the Negro race is destined to take a leading part in, what you call, the next Cycle of Civilization. ”
The above are not the actual words, word for word, but the sense is the same as has been conveyed to me by that critic. Every true lover of his race will no doubt go into sackcloth and ashes on account of this criticism – that is, so far as it is true. There is much food for thought, and it is only noble to make a clean breast of the matter, by confessing this great failing, and working for a better state of things. I feel convinced that, as the years go by, our men will grow in a higher and higher respect for womankind, and our women as highly deserving of it, far and above the desires of my critic.
But I pause. A question wells from the heart, and it is this: Is it not wicked exaggeration to stamp the Negro with any particular mark of moral depravity? Taken all in all, judging him by the measure of a little more than three quarters of a century, and paying regard to the little light of this civilization received by him, with none at all of the two great civilizations immediately preceding the present, does he stand on a lower plane than others with a thousand years of worming up to the high social standards of the present day? Credat Judaeus. I know that two wrongs do not make a right, but comparison helps conclusions.
There have been other criticisms in years gone by, which happily, are nailed to the counter. One was that the Negro was lazy and could not do a man’s work. Today, to the contrary, the “problem” is largely assuming the question of how to fight against the “black peril” which threatens to become master in the world’s labour market! Since he did work which no one else could have done in the cutting of the Panama Canal, and clearing the swampy forests of Brazil – and, almost unaided, has cultivated ten thousand Naboth-farms in the Southern States, and holdings and estates in the West Indies, the thought in certain quarters is not that the Negro will not work, but that he should not be allowed to work too much and prosper beyond bounds. In this connection, an influential English journal, The Nation, in its issue of May 5, 1917, says:
“The palm-oil industry is not the only industry which the inhabitants of the British West African Protectorate have built up. In the Gold Coast and Ashanti, the native farmers, working as free men on their own land, have created a cocoa industry which has beaten every competing cocoa-growing country and placed this British protectorate at the head of all the cocoa exporting districts in the world. They have done this in twenty years. And they have done it without European capital, and no help other than the use of their own arms and brains and the technical assistance of the local Agricultural Department. The cultivation of ground nuts, cotton, and rubber has also been undertaken by the native communities with successful results. The African races are essentially commercial races, and fling themselves eagerly into every enterprise which offers them a chance of profit, besides raising their own foodstuffs. The legend of the “idle native” so far as concerns British West Africa, is a legend either due to ignorance or one that is fostered for ulterior motives.” As a worker, despite the grumbling of greedy European sweaters in African mines, palm-oil and rubber fields, the Negro’s place in the next cycle of civilization is eminently assured.
Another criticism, now nailed to the counter, was that the Negro was of marked intellectual inferiority in the company of others. A leish of “scientists,” whose bark was worse than their bite, came on his track to show that his cranial formation, or the formation of his toes, or of his kidneys, was somewhat different from those of other races, which proved that the Negro had not the mental capacity of others! These critics are just beginning to understand the wise provisions of Nature. Just as Nature provides certain plants with the powers of resistance to the hard circumstances of adverse elements, is it not in the same way that, in tropical parts, the skulls of men should be thicker, and the brain made more secure – that is, if the “scientists” are right in their observations? Why should the brain be exposed like the white man’s, to become addled under the trying conditions of tropical parts? Does not nature provide for the best everywhere? Other “scientists” advanced as reasons for intellectual inferiority, climate and soil, which were a little more feasible but ultimately as absurd as other deductions when the whole history of climates and civilization is considered. It was perhaps only from a want of courage that Darwin did not decide on the Negro as “the missing link.” To-day, that criticism has effervesced. The present criticism, far from being an enunciation of his mental inferiority, is for keeping the halls of learning closed to the Negro, where he has distinguished himself wonderfully well. It is being recognized that his is rich intellect, unused for thousands of years, from the time of the black Pharaohs, of learned Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, and Aesop, the great fabulist – and now crying to God to bear its overdue harvest. The “scientists” who set out to prove his mental inferiority are now a disorganized pack of whipped curs, far from the scene of the hunt. This is not said in a boasting spirit, but in order to show the kind of unjust criticism to which the Negro has been subjected, and to impress the divine law that all men have been created equals, and the difference in virtues, achievements, and accomplishments is simply a matter of time, social circumstance, and ethical environment.
The other criticism, now that the theories of his industrial inferiority and intellectual inferiority are exploded, is concerning his alleged moral inferiority. There are many surrounding ideas that must be brought to bear in a study of this question. Some years ago, an American traveller on his return from Africa (I think his name is Dr. Starr Jordan) made a very astonishing remark before an ethnological society. He said that he was surprised to find that in the most primitive African tribes strict codes of morality are observed which can put to shame the standards of civilized nations. Adultery is a high crime before their gods, and there is nothing in Africa like the prostitution of woman in enlightened nations. He went further and stated that a father loses caste, and his daughter is banned for life if, in giving her in marriage, she proves not to be in the flower of her chastity. Travellers and missionaries have since said more or less the same thing about chastity in Africa. Now, this is a picture of the Negro untouched by our civilization. I fancy it goes far from proving that social impurity is the Negro’s inherent quality. But years later, a Missionary – one of the brave band disliked by General Smuts – showed that as “civilization” touched certain tribes, evil influences started to work, beginning with the introduction of alcohol among them, and the vile venereal, a European importation.
I imagine the slave-ship with a “cargo” of these people for the West Indies and America. They are “cattle, ” demoralized and brought to the level of brute beasts, but “beasts” as they are – well, everybody here knows the story! And so I am bound to imagine them in these parts, for the first time, schooled in the white man’s immorality. What were crimes before their gods, when practised upon them, are considered nothing before the new Christ, the God of their owners! Are they not bought, and owned, body, soul, and spirit? I hasten to draw the curtain over this picture!
Who taught the Negro in the West Indies and America that there was nothing in marriage? Who started the pace in illegitimacy? The failure is a grievous one, but it should not be thrown in the face of the Negro as though the responsibility is solely his. Just six weeks ago, while at the Mission House in search of a birth record for a relative abroad, the Superintendent of the Wesleyan body showed me some rare and valuable documents of his church in this island. Among them I saw a Marriage Register of over 100 years ago. What did I see? I saw that while it was considered bad form for a Church in Grenada to marry Negro slaves, the Wesleyan Methodists, in the teeth of opposition, performed such ceremonies on certain occasions where the consent of the owners of the slaves was received! In perusing those documents, I gleaned that in some cases the marriage of slaves here was forbidden by owners, and in such case where, from a single and devoted affection, pairs lived together as man and wife, the Methodist Church used its discretion by allowing them to partake of Holy Communion! The Church recognized that it was not the fault of the slaves, but rather the law of the land, that they remained out of wedlock. Years and years after, the Government became enlightened enough not only to sanction the marriages of slaves in Grenada but to pass a retrospective law legalizing the marriages performed by the Methodists. Church-going – objected to by the Government and the slave-owning class, even to the point of enforcing heavy penalties on Methodist preachers (they were actually threatened with the gallows at one time) – was tolerated at length only because by becoming Christian, the slaves showed greater patience in suffering, did not steal even while forced by hunger, and were capable of greater horse-power and endurance in their work – without tears! I have read in Whittier’s poetical works of an auction sale of slaves in America, in which the auctioneer impressed his buyers that a certain slave-girl was a Christian – the inference being that she was, in that case, more patient under her brutal suffering, and, as such, a splendid investment! At a very early stage Methodists rebelled against the idea here. It is a sad irony of events to see how coloured people in the West Indies go about without knowing what Methodism has done for their forefathers in these islands.
With the state of things as pictured above, is it not to the credit of our people that they have, in seventy years (and in the case of America even less), made such wonderful strides in equal citizenship, virtue and accomplishment?
There is the lurking of great evil in the breasts of all peoples. Apart from dry history on the subject, one has but to read “Quo Vadis,” based on historical certainties, to get a faint idea of the intense immorality of the Romans, in the height of their civilization. Today, the flower of Europe, Germany, proves it. God forbid that Negroes should ever find themselves steeped in the slime of German brutality and immorality – German wholesale disrespect of womankind in Belgium! God forbid that the immorality of France – a like degradation and like scientific prostitution of women – should ever be the lot of Negroes in these parts or in Africa; God forbid that we should ever feel “the rod in the pickle” such as was applied to the English women by a Canadian officer recently, (in which he was heartily supported by the Bishop of London) when he felt bound to speak out concerning the moral corruption experienced by Canadian soldiers in London. The Bishop’s criticism of the immorality of his fellow women is almost too strong for publication.
I have no desire to shield our vulnerable points under the cover of the greater faults of others. That we stand in need of greater moral elevation, I confess frankly, openly. But there is the genesis of things to be considered. I must pay attention to the foul school in which the Negro was taught the rights and wrongs of social impurity, and, in fair comparison, see whether in hardly fourscore years, there is any justification for stamping him with the supreme stigma of immorality. The figures of Negro illegitimacy in these parts are high, but that of the French might have been higher if they did not bring down their immorality to a devilish science by which the tale can never be told in the figures of the birthrate. France is the home of that science, which, in its larger significance, constitutes a menace to the growth of the human family.
Is not woman, native or European, safer in any island in the West Indies than in many of the great centres of the world? Is there any organized system of traffic in chastity here, for speaking against which in England, W. T. Stead, the great journalist, was sent to prison? From sunrise to evening star, can she not go wherever it pleases her to go? Are not marriage ties held in great respect in our midst? And if there are exceptions to the rule, are they not, in the majority of cases, the imported custom of “Society” in other parts, with much of the rest being a native imitation of that custom? Then, wherefore the reason for this Jedwood justice for the Negro? The spread of education, in the best sense of the term, is sure to minimize this failing complained of in our people, for it is a failing in spite of exaggeration and in spite of comparison in our favour. One great point to be considered in working for a better state of things is the relation between low wages and immorality; between the absence of technical and moral training for women and the evil conditions that exist.
Now, after a frank study of the question in all its points, can it be said seriously, and with reason, that the Negro, owing to immorality, is unfitted to take a leading part in the new cycle of civilization? Can any one, without sin, cast a stone?
CYCLES OF CIVILIZATION
“What the future of that country South Africa will be nobody knows, but, remembering my experience in East Africa my eyes have been opened to the many serious dangers which threaten the future, not only of Africa, but of the world. I have seen there what I have never before realized – what enormously valuable material you have in that black continent. We are all aware of the German plan that existed before the war, and is still no doubt in the background of many minds in South Africa, of creating a great Central African Empire, which would embrace not only Cameroon, and Central Africa, but Portuguese East Africa and the Congo. It would be one of the most valuable tropical parts of the world, and one in which it would be possible to train one of the most powerful armies the world has ever seen.
Before the war we were not aware of the military value of the natives. It will be a serious question for us in the future, and a serious question for the statesmen of Empire and of Europe, whether they are going to allow a state of affairs like that to be a menace not only to South African problems, but to Europe itself. I hope one result of the war will be that some arrangement may be made by which the military training of the natives in that area will be absolutely forbidden. Otherwise, armies may be trained so large that, properly led by whites and properly equipped, they might be a danger to civilization itself. I hope that will be carefully borne in mind by our statesmen when the question of settlement comes.” – General Smuts
There is much in the above remarks that I would have thought the more likely to come from a Herr Von Smuts in Prussia, than from a member of the British Imperial Conference! If the pitch of the Savoy speech of the South African representative is to be taken as the keynote of the policy of Empire after the war, a generous heart can find much room for pity for that Empire. But in this part of the speech I note the former bravado of the oppressionist giving way under current of guilty fears.
“What the future of that country will be, nobody knows,” he says. He sees clearly as possible “the many serious dangers which threaten the future not only of Africa, but of the world, ” but General Smuts does not seem to recognize the fact that Africa has two futures, the one his, and the other the natural Africa’s, each opposed to the other. He has confessed to a new realization of the enormous valuable material in the black continent. Just here it is not clear whether he refers to “valuable” military material or to “valuable” vegetable and mineral material, or both. And then most persons are afforded enlightenment on the German plan that existed before the war “of creating a great Central African Empire, comprising one of the most valuable tropical parts of the world, and one in which it would be possible to train one of the most powerful armies the world has ever seen.” This is, in certain respects, a new confession. We had heard before that the Negro was lazy, inefficient, and the veritable fifth wheel to the coach of peoples. It was said that he could not do a man’s work in peace time, but here we have it on good authority that he is fitted for the greater work of the soldier. “Before the war, ” continues the gallant General, “we were not aware of the military value of the natives, ” and, I am bound to add to General Smuts’ remarks, and of other values also. There is none so blind as he that will not see. Surely, the history of Africa, in the pages of which “the military value of the natives” leaps to the eye, is not a closed book to General Smuts. He knows how, time and again, with the most primitive weapons, they faced well trained European troops and made them bite the dust, even breaking British squares, before being overpowered by sheer superiority of the instruments of death employed against them. But we must remember that General Smuts had large bodies of natives under him in his successful campaign in East Africa. Is it that they showed such wonderful endurance and skill that the old Boer general, in spite of hoary prejudices, became vividly aware of their greater military value? Whatever be the cause, the General is indeed fearfully aware of the great fact, and, as a result, he means to gather what must be poor chaff to catch his birds. But larks are not to be caught in that way. According to the saying, it is only when the sky falls that he shall catch larks. His proposition to stifle the warlike instinct of the Africans, while military law is to prevail by the whites among them, is ridiculous as it is Prussianistic, and dangerous to the cause. That instinct will sleep only as long as conditions favour its sleeping. The best of those conditions is a wise, liberal, and sympathetic system of Government in Africa. There are several millions of African people who are born warriors. The free martial instinct in their nature is as existent and evident as the wild forest growth round and about them. Danger to them is an item of daily routine, for day in and day out, they are called upon to battle with wild beasts and the elements. Their very survival and existence, facing the rigours of the dangerous conditions under which they live, is evidence of their wonderful fitness. To such a people, war is a lesser task, a congenial enterprise.
There are many readers of General Smuts’ Savoy Speech who will have to weigh a certain statement with great seriousness. It is this, and I italicize certain parts:
“It will be a very serious question for us in the future, and a serious question for the statesmen of the Empire and of Europe Germany included? whether they are going to allow a state of affairs like that to be a menace not only to South African problems, but to Europe itself. I hope one result of the war will be that some arrangement may be made by which the military training of the natives in that area will be absolutely forbidden.”
I see in the above the kind of olive-branch that will be held out, after the war, to all the nations of Europe. I did not know that “one of the results of the war” was to be the creation of a system of European plunder in Africa. While British statesmen were in full voice with the chorus that the war was fought for Belgian independence, and for the rights of the weak against the strong, General Smuts in a Very noisy and discordant manner, startled certain sections of the British public by saying that “the war was fought largely over African questions”! And here we have him saying what one of the results of the war must be. Every nation of Europe is to be invited to turn policeman in the interest of the whole. While such a spirit remains among the nations, is it within the bounds of reason to say that the world bids fair to be rid of the horrors of war? The African Armageddon – the real one – seems to be more than a possibility, sometime, and in good season.
I can now understand what appeared to me as inexplicable. I can now see why, despite Great Britain’s dire need of manpower in the critical days, “the military value of the natives” in Africa was not taken into account. It was fear of giving these born warriors and born scouts knowledge of the instruments of modern warfare, for in the interest of Europe it is necessary that they be kept in the assegai age, and be “absolutely forbidden” to experience modern military training. France, whose “fraternity” was attacked by General Smuts, with the utmost seriousness in the present danger to the future of the world, has employed African troops. These African troops have justified their presence in the conflict by performing prodigies of valour, among which is the great part they played in winning the day at Douamont. Great Britain, on the other hand, was satisfied to martyrize a large portion of her insufficient body of troops and prolong the horrors of this war, although she had such valuable material in Africa to strangle the Huns early in the fighting. But she was afraid. Of what is Truth afraid? Why was not France afraid? If ever a nation has cause to note the military value of African natives, France is that nation. France has seen it in the hell of Europe. But a Frenchman was not the one to strike the alarmist note, and preface an invitation to all Europe to become a band of military tyrants, detectives and plunderers, in one of the most valuable tropical parts of the world. That office was left to an envious member of the august body which is to direct British policy among the nations and peoples of the world.
But Europe is not sufficient to garrison and police Africa in the interest of gain – that is, for long. I believe in the impact of the gathering purpose of the world too much to entertain such an opinion. I am unscientific and unlearned enough to believe in the strength of invisible hosts, chariots of fire, and the miraculous “quicksands” of God! There is much evidence of this in history to fortify me in that belief. The story of the war in Europe, even now, is, in certain parts, the story of the immortality of Divine helpers. And so I believe in the world’s Deus Ex Machina; I believe in the depths of Democracy, which is broad and deep enough to swallow the mightiest systems of world domination; I believe in the evil, though its “head be of gold, the breast and arms of silver, and the belly and thighs of brass” for are not the legs of “iron mixed with clay?”
It is necessary, thinks General Smuts, to forbid the training of African natives, “otherwise, armies may be trained so large that, properly led by whites and properly equipped, they may be a danger to civilization itself.” Why “properly led by whites”? This is the resurrection of another old ghost. What is there to prevent the training of black officers together with the training of black armies, which the General has seen in his fearful nightmare? Can white men alone lead armies? Have not black men done so in the long, long ago? And in modern days, what about Toussaint L’Ouverture, Sonni Ali, Crispus Attucks? Even at this moment, Lieutenant Colonel Young, a Negro, given opportunity, is in the company of the captains of war in the United States. Does General Smuts mean that if events turn in the direction of having black men formed into “one of the most powerful armies the world has ever seen,” they must of necessity be “led by whites?” The Japanese, a hermit-people of little more than half a century ago, whose end and aim was domestic happiness, whose ambition was in their weaving, spinning, and the making and painting of pottery, when their time came, did not need to be “led by whites.” Standing where General Smuts stood, and looking fifty years ahead, the dreamer of Japan’s military future would have been to a like disadvantage, He too might have seen an army, if army at all – at any rate a very much smaller one compared with the resources of Africa – which, “properly led by whites” would then alone be thought to be capable of great things. But Manchuria tells its bloody story, where Japanese dash and daring startled Europe, and in the present war Japanese soldiers have shown evidence of variety in their quiet, systematic storming of Kaichou. Perhaps General Smuts means that whites may find it necessary to lead the powerful black army against whites, in a greedy scramble for the greater share of Africa’s products, but in that case I fail to see how that can be “a danger to civilization itself,” unless every particular nation creates civilization in its own national image and likeness. Why should not the rising of “one of the most powerful armies the world has ever seen” – a black army – fighting the greatest possible war of liberation, be a blessing to civilization rather than the curse imagined by General Smuts?
Apart from the European-wide military espionage and tyranny by which he proposes absolutely to forbid the military training of the natives in the interest of questionable motives (which, interpreted, means “civilization”) General Smuts said in effect that there must be two Africas in public life. The natives must live morally, socially, mentally, politically, in their own world, distinct and apart from the White South Africa. A whole series of pages is thus stolen from America’s book, which is entitled “Jim Crow.” But General Smuts’ South Africa may catch a Tartar by this method, as is the case in the United States, where segregation, far from starving the Negro, has proved to be the saving and upbuilding of him, by teaching him to unite with, and support, his own, with a common aim and object. One of the greatest drawbacks to the utmost development and success of Negroes is that they do not pull with one another to results of general improvement and dignity. Segregation in Africa, therefore, will be an evil to result in constructive good. According to Booker T. Washington, we should learn the value of “teamwork” in everything – joyful teamwork in the successes of our own people, and sorrowful and sympathetic teamwork in failures and defeats. Sometimes I feel moved to pray that some tyrant maybe found in the West Indies to endeavour the starving of Negroes by segregation policies, for in that case I will be assured of the untold benefits of our tremendous unity.
CYCLES OF CIVILIZATION
I am bound to look upon General Smuts, in his Savoy Speech, as the mere mouthpiece of a gang of “Imperial” landgrabbers, many of whom are English.
Some days ago, I read an article in a West Indian newspaper on “The Empire Resources Development Committee,” which has been established recently in England. That paper was quite enthusiastic, and, no doubt, is prepared to welcome operations of the Committee in the West Indies. But, unfortunately, the Committee has been formed by persons in the interest of selfishness, and is, in fact, calculated to work for a development of the resources of their evil genius, which is already in evidence in South Africa, and of which General Smuts has advertised himself as exponent.
Who are the men that comprise the membership of this Empire Resources Development Committee? The majority of the old South African gang! Lord Milner, a leading figure in the notorious South African Company, the object of which is to suck the trade-blood of the country for the benefit of Englishmen, and to the disadvantage of the natives, was asked to be Chairman of this Empire Resources Development Committee. Having declined the high post, it was offered to, and accepted by, the next best, or next worst, man, Sir Leander Starr Jameson, a Director of the South African Company. Lord Milner, however, though refusing the Chairmanship, has accepted membership in the new Committee. Mr. William Fox, also a Director of the South African Company, is Hon. Secretary of this Empire Resources Development Committee, the Earl of Selborne, Earl Grey, Sir Henry Birchenough, and others concerned with South African exploitation are in the new gang. New blood was brought in, so far as that new blood is in keeping with the South African Company’s ideas.
It is to be noted that these were the men who gave the dinner at the Savoy Hotel in honour of General Smuts. Lord Milner was there, Lord Selborne, Sir Leander Starr Jameson and others. It was on the invitation of these men that General Smuts made his after-dinner speech which, in declaring British policy in Africa, has echoed round the world. The General met with little criticism; most of the criticism was that his speech was “imprudent” or “ill-timed.” It was only from one intelligent quarter of the British public that the speech was condemned in principle, and that is the quarter which reflects the views and opinions of that sane, forward thinking journal, “The Nation.” Even the so-called socialistic Labour Party in England, which can be very noisy over certain departures from strict human rights, found reason to be silent over the principles outlined for a system of national robbery in Africa, since it all means that by the seizing of the land, products, and trade of the natives, British labour, manufactures and merchantism stand to reap far greater benefits.
Is this Empire Resources Development Committee to be welcomed with enthusiasm in the West Indies? It aims at taking control of industries now in the hands of natives of Crown Colonies and Protectorates, and this is to be effected by stealth and under disguise of attractive generosity. The Committee has published its manifesto, which is signed by an illustrious set of men who have just the influence to create mischief in the Empire. In addition to the manifesto, an official circular has been published by the Committee in which it is made quite clear that operations must not be hampered by the Civil Service. It must be, what the Americans call, “a deal” strictly between the shareholders and the Crown. No less clear is it made by the circular that the Crown Colonies and Protectorates are to be the hunting-field of the Empire Resources Development Committee, and British Tropical Africa is marked out as the special point of attack. The following extract from a speech by Lord Milner is interesting. Addressing the British working-men, he says:
“Peer into the future. These limitless areas – West Africa in particular – yield certain articles which are an absolute necessity to our civilization … ‘I say without hesitation’ says an authority whom the Government has already seen it well to trust in matters of this character ‘that if this trade were organized on an Empire basis we could make £15,000,000 a year for the reduction of the Empire debt.’ …The property is ours as an asset to be worked for the Empire.”
In addition, we have Mr. Alfred Bigland, M. P. quoted as saying:
“Think what it would mean if all these products of West Africa . . . were controlled for the benefit of the Empire as a whole! Think how huge is the potential profit which could be devoted to the service of the Empire’s debt. . . . The direct profit from the West African produce by no means exhausts the benefits which would result from the possession and the development by the State of the trade in such produce.”
The above has given me an idea of what is likely to be a cursed result of victory. “Rhodesianism in British Tropical Africa,” which, in certain respects, is more tyrannous than militarism in Europe is to be established under the direction of the Empire Resources Development Committee. Millions of natives, hard-working, industrious, capable, are to yield up the industries they have created and maintained to a gang of Imperial highwaymen, who have evolved a “catchy” scheme of sharing the spoils between themselves and the State! They are to yield up their rights for reducing the Empire’s debt – that Empire which kept them out of the war – and that war which is not likely to result in any good for them. Although many leading newspapers in Great Britain are in support of the scheme – or scheming – and so many centres of prevailing thought in sympathy with it, (so that one wonders whether Great Britain has become an open stumbling-block to liberty and righteousness in the world) it is quite reassuring to note that there is a journal, The Nation, which proves that the old moral metal of England still rings true. The Nation stands for a vigorous moral rebellion against the principles which blemish the fair name of England in world-duties. I cannot resist quoting the following remarks from the great paper in its article dealing with the Empire Resources Development Committee:
“The whole of the scheme, so far as British West Africa – the home of the oil-palm – is concerned is based upon false politics and false economics. The land of British West Africa does not belong to the British State. It belongs to the native communities and the fact is explicitly, or implicitly, recognized in hundreds of agreements made from time to time with these communities, and thanks to which a British Protectorate has, in the main peaceably, been accepted by them. With the exception of a few restricted and, compared with the vast areas affected, quite insignificant districts which have become influenced by European ideas, the whole of the land in our West African Protectorates is held under customary tenure based upon the principle that every individual within the community has a right to share in the land’s bounties, but that the ultimate ownership of the land remains in the community, and that the land cannot be permanently alienated from the community. For the British State to advance a claim to ownership of the land in the West African Protectorates, would be in the nature of an immense expropriation. Again, the idea sedulously fostered by the committee’s propaganda that the natural wealth of British West Africa is running to waste because the native communities do not explore it, is untrue. The sum of labour effort put out by the natives of Southern Nigeria, for example, in the palm-oil and kernel industry, is immense. Virtually the entire population – men, women and children – is continuously engaged all the year round in this native-created and native maintained industry: gathering, preparing, and transporting the product to the European trading stations. The annual value of the trade runs into many millions sterling, it provides the principal freightage for the fleet of steamers engaged in the West African trade, and employment to tens of thousands of workers in Britain. Moreover, the palm-oil tree and its fruits are an indispensable factor in the domestic life of the native communities and are an important item in the internal trade of the country. For the British State, in combination with financial corporations, to lay claim to the palm-oil forests would be an invasion of native rights without precedent in British Colonial history.
“The plain fact of the matter is that projects of this kind aim not at creating new industries and developing natural resources, but at laying hands upon existing industries created by the natives, and at converting native communities owning their land, developing it in their own right and for their benefit and ours since the commercial value of their output calls for a corresponding output of European merchantism into wage-earners working in the interests of private corporations, in which – under the Committee’s scheme – the State would be a partner. Let it be plainly understood that if we embark upon the policy of the Empire Resources Development Committee, in so far as the Crown Colonies and Protectorates are concerned, we embark upon a fatal course – a course which will convert law-abiding and industrious peoples into sullen payers of tribute; a course which will promote war (which in these regions means massacre) all over West Africa; a course which will fail even from the point of view of shortsighted utilitarianism, for tropical Africa cannot be permanently kept down by force, and, under a regime of expropriation, dries up economically.
The nation must not be allowed in the confusion of a great war to be lured into endorsing schemes subversive of its honour and of its most sacred obligations towards races it has taken under its protection.”
One is bound to pause and draw a breath of relief after reading such plain and weighty words in an influential English journal. It shows that the African natives are great workers and gifted with industrial imagination. And it shows also how it is proposed to undermine their trade and seize their land in the interest of “Rule Britannia.”
It is to be hoped that West Indians, if ever it comes for them to decide, will not trust In the glittering attractiveness of the Empire Resources Development Committee. Its aims are the taking of control of native industries and products by a new gang, which comprises many of the members of the old South African Company. In a word, no matter the tempting baits offered, it means industrial and commercial slavery, even by force of arms. No wonder General Smuts said that the military training of the natives must be absolutely forbidden. It is part of the game.
If it could have been said that General Smuts, the South African representative, was alone with his wicked devices; it could have been proved that the sentiments of his hard Boer heart had nothing to do with the leading men in England – he would then have been dismissed as an adventurer or a crank. But, far from this, he is in the ranks with many in England whose voices of yea or nay are powerful and strong. There are those in the heart of the Empire who can out-Smuts him in their wicked policies.
Is the war against Germany to result in this system of land-grabbing and, in some respects, naked robbery of the poor South African natives? Are these wicked ideas to be brought to fruition under the auspices of the Crown? If so, where is the Liberty, and where is the Righteousness, we are supposed to be fighting for? Of what use are the sacrifices of the flowers of the manhood of Great Britain and Greater Britain? What about the alleged spiritual passion in the interest of the rights of the weak against the strong? Where is the system for the protection of small nationalities and peoples? In what way are the bonds of human brotherhood to be made stronger, and a better humanity to smile even in the tangled circumstances of the world? How is it possible for idiotic, suicidal wars, inspired by envy and greed, in which there can be no real victors, to be banished from the scale of human conceptions? How are true, noble results of this great world strife to be made manifest, if the greatest belligerent is to give sanction to those persons In the Empire whose shameful policies are, in many ways, a cunning refinement of the very systems against which millions have fought and died?
The waves of Great or Greater Britain shall break upon the shores of Africa if, as a result of this war, there is to be anything from her like the tyranny that is foreshadowing itself. She shall hear the click of her cycle sooner than it ought to be, if, “from precedent to precedent,” she allows the African gang to commit national indecencies and outrages in her name.
Perhaps the gods are looking down on Great Britain now, as from her hand the die is cast. May it prove to be thrown in favour of immortal Truth, Liberty, justice and Righteousness, for it is well-known that there is an historical Power in human affairs which is no respecter of nations and peoples – a power that damns to the uttermost; and, in opposite ways, makes the most glorious or grievous world-events to contribute to the great world-purpose of general human development. Great Britain is casting her die of fate in Africa, and a civilization is at stake.
CYCLES OF CIVILIZATION
Rollin, in concluding his Ancient History, after reviewing the civilizations of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Grecians and Macedonians, and taking into account the history of the Romans, exclaims:
“Beyond here, to speak properly, a picture on a small scale of the duration of all ages; of the glory and the power of all the empires of the world; in a word, of all that is most splendid and most capable of exciting admiration in human greatness! Every excellence, by a happy concurrence, is here found assembled; the fire of genius, delicacy of taste, accompanied by solid judgement, uncommon powers of eloquence, carried to the highest degree of perfection, without departing from the nature of truth; the glory of arms, with that of arts and sciences; valour in conquering, and ability in Government. What a multitude of great men of every kind does it not present to view! What powerful, what glorious Kings! What great captains! What famous conquerors! What wise magistrates! What learned philosophers! What admirable legislators! We are transported with beholding in certain ages and countries, who appear to possess the mass privileges peculiar to themselves, an ardent zeal for justice, a passionate love for their country, a noble disinterestedness, a generous contempt for riches, and an esteem for poverty, which astonish and amaze us, so much do they appear above the power of human nature.
In this manner we think and judge. But, whilst we are in admiration and ecstasy at the view of so many shining virtues, the Supreme judge, who can alone truly estimate all things, sees nothing in them but littleness, meanness, vanity and pride; and whilst mankind are anxiously busied in perpetuating the power of their families, in founding kingdoms, and if that were possible, rendering them eternal, God, from His throne on high, overthrows all their projects and makes even their ambition the means of executing His purposes, infinitely superior to our understandings. He alone knows His operations and designs.”
The God Who, in the past, has made the greatest “ambition the means of executing His purposes” is the God – the Purpose-Power – Who presides over the Cycles of Civilization. He has never been, and never can be, nationalized; the Almighty can be no Ally against the purpose of the free development of all mankind, or any particular section of mankind. The wisdom of His purpose is “infinitely superior to our understandings.”
New cycles of civilization will follow each other to the end of time; new racial bases formed, and new deposits of moral energy may be made in order to feed the old, old current of human destiny. Mankind has not tapped the half of its possibilities for great things. I believe that, although the present generations of the world are an aggregation of moral and intellectual midgets compared with the giants of thought in past ages, the time is coming when man shall have the greatest knowledge of knowing himself, and, climbing beyond his manhood, attain to the very godhood or godliness of his destiny.
From every belligerent nation, prayer for victory is being sent up to God! Which God? Whose God? Is it to the God Who has been indicted at the bar of the nations all these years for the folly, the crime, the absurdity of making black men? That God cannot hear. Slow to anger, He is also sure in the terrible punishments of His justice!
The long-suffering justice of God is to be meted out. He was weary and the nations gave Him no rest; He was cold and was offered no shelter; He was hungry for the food of the higher life, and was given a stone. And all this, although He was first enslaved by them to have become weary; was ejected from His home to have become shelterless; was first plundered to have needed food. But the nations might say, when did we these things unto God? The answer is “Inasmuch!”
War shall cease only when nations are honourable and godly enough to cease fighting against nations from sheer envy, or pride of position and power; and greater still, when nations cease to put in practice the principles of highwaymen by “holding up,” on the road to progress, all those who have fat purses, but are unfortunate enough not to have adequate weapons of defence with them. General Smuts, on behalf of his followers in Great Britain, argues strongly for the perpetuation of these dangerous principles in Africa, and even invites all the European nations to form a powerfully organized gang to look after those principles. This gives no auspicious outlook. There are bound to be wars, more wars, and yet more wars in Africa, because someone will want the lion’s share, in conflict with the grabbing propensities of others. But perhaps that is the way the peace of Africa is to come about. An oppressed people might get their due only when greedy and dishonest oppressors fall out and settle their quarrels in bloody war – the bloodier the better!
The object of these articles, under the title “Cycles of Civilization,” inspired by the notorious speech of General Smuts, is to shadow forth the idea that certain tremendous transitions are attendant on the progress of mankind; that these transitions which take place at certain periods are so indicative of the spirit of law, that they are considered to be brought about in cycles. At every such transitional stage new civilizations have been formed, and hence the title “Cycles of Civilization.” In the operation of every new cycle in the world’s history, it is to be noted that new peoples, having the advantage of new markets, new waterways and something new to offer to the commercial, industrial and scientific development of the world, have come from a state of’ backwardness to the forefront of the human race. In a great degree, modern European civilization met with prosperity by the internal possession of coal and iron. The responsiveness of human mind, to possibilities of congenital circumstances, formed machinery and generated steam – and machinery and steam created better means of locomotion, increased the results of labour, brought man nearer to man by rapid and safer means of shipping, gathering wealth from distant shores, and to the peril of strong armies, guarded the incidental civilization with swift and mighty “floating fortresses.” With such conditions, peaceful arts and moral employments and enterprises were undertaken with wonderful and rich results. But, the steam period is passing, however imperceptible the transition may be. Rubber, gasoline, oil and electricity are entering their new era of a more general distribution of the opportunities to economic development. Locomotion and shipping are to undergo transition with the growing perfection of the aeroplane. There is a rumbling of a revolution in the change that is to come about in the arming of nations. Former civilizations guarded their cycle with sword and horse and foot; in a very late period of the present civilization, seapower was considered the greatest means of defence and offence. This is likely to be feeble security when the air is mastered sufficiently, as it seems it shall be. Cannon may give place to chemistry in the wars of the future – far more deadly in effect and inexpensive of energy in employment. These and greater things, may be, if nations must be highwaymen, and must give battle to the purposes of God! These things also show the agencies that are likely to overthrow empires, alter national and racial values, and humble that ambition for world-domination without an equal responsibility for world-development. It is easy to see that the European nations will not be able to monopolize participation in human advantages much longer. They are at present in a hearty war of mutual destruction.
And is it beyond the range of practicability to expect that the Negro, and the darker races of mankind in general, will be in a position to play a great leading part in the next cycle? Using the thought of the poet and seer, there are many ways in which God may fulfill Himself lest the present good custom grow to corrupt the world. It may not be in this generation, or in ten or fifty generations to come, but the world is going to be a brighter and happier place for all, perhaps after a greater drain of blood and tears than is the case at present. In a few generations there should be visible results of a change of cycle, which new cycle has almost entered into its own on the blood-drenched fields of Europe.
The Father-God shall gather the children He has made, who, in their lowliness and suffering, have been for long centuries the mysterious back-instruments of His purpose. He, who is “too wise to err and too good to be unkind” did not send the Negro in His world to be sport and toy of nations. As Negroes, and in the highest spiritual instinct, we look up to the day-smile of the long-expected dawning of a truer world!