PRESIDENTIAL SOUTHERN TOUR, ADDRESS TO THE COLORED PEOPLE OF NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
September 19, 1877
I will respond to both these addresses in one. Since all men are equal before the law, and have all equal rights, there is no need of my making two addresses, one to the white men and another to the colored me; therefore I propose to speak to the colored man just as I speak to the white man and the white man just as to the colored. I speak to the people of Tennessee just as I spoke to the people of Vermont.
My thought has been that the interest of this country and the prosperity of this country require that every just cause of discontent in any body or any class of people ought to be removed, if it can be. We had a large part of the country not content with the condition of things. It was believed, or it was claimed, that the colored people of the country would not be safe in their interests and their rights if the Federal troops were withdrawn from the Southern States. I believe that the time has come when the colored people of the South would be safer with no troops anywhere in the South undertaking to protect them than they would be with such troops trying to protect them. I believe then, as now, after almost six months’ trial, that the majority of the people of the South—the white people of the South—have no desire to invade the right of the colored people so as to make it at all necessary to have Federal bayonets in their midst. I think the colored people are safer tonight with their rights, in Tennessee, with no Federal bayonets undertaking to protect them, than they were when there were armies here trying to protect them.
Another thing, the Southern people were in that condition of dissatisfaction that all could see that their attention was withdrawn from agriculture, from commerce, from manufactures and from business by political discussion. My friends, there is a time for political discussion, but it is not all the time. At least an important part of the time of every community should be given up to business and to industry, and if, by any measure of government content can be restored, quiet can be restored, peace and satisfaction be restored, I believe that is the wise policy to pursue; and I think this is the key to the whole matter that has been done. As I said at Cincinnati, what has been done was not merely because of any need of our doing it, but we did it because, under our oaths registered in heaven, we believed that it was just and right to do it.
All I have to say to you is that I wish to be able to carry to the Northern people the information that every right secured by the amendments to the colored people by the Constitution, will be cheerfully accorded to them. Let us understand that peace at last reigns supreme and unbroken throughout this whole country. With that era prosperity dawns upon the Southern country such as we have never seen since the slavery agitation began.
If the industry of any part of the country is neglected the whole country has to suffer. The prosperity of the whole country is the prosperity of all its parts—of all sections—of all States. This seems to me, is the large and liberal view.
Now you have, as I said today, a good basis, a comparatively thinly-peopled country; you have minerals, building material, lumber, a salubrious climate, fertile soil, and all that is wanted to be added is more and more people, the virtuous people of the world. You want in Tennessee and Alabama and Mississippi to come to your States the power, the strength, the wealth and the population they can support. You want the population here as they have in Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and even Texas. Let labor and capital come and prosperity spreads. Let it be understood that peace reigns here, that there is no quarrel, that all men are free to come and go, and the attractions of this glorious Southern country will bring you the very best immigrants the world produces; the best from the North and the best from Europe. With these your prosperity is assured. About education, it is simply this: Let the Scotchman, the Swede, the German, or any other of the best foreign people that come to this country, understand that their children can be freely educated in public schools, and it is a better advertisement for your State than any you can get for the amount of money it will cost. This, I believe, is the idea of Tennessee, hence it is that in Nashville you have such schools, such institutions of learning. I say, education brings immigration of the best kind. Let it have your support, and with this, and with peace prosperity is yours.
I have talked longer than I expected; but the truth is, I have seen so much that is gratifying to me, so much real, genuine merit and patriotism exhibited in conversation and everywhere since I have come to Kentucky and Tennessee, that I would be glad to leave some words of counsel that would be useful to you. And now I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your cheers for the Union, the Constitution and the old flag. I believe you are destined to go on and be the home of freedom and a refuge to numbers of every climb to the last record of time.