PRESIDENTIAL TRIP TO NEW ENGLAND
August 17, 1877
It is not my purpose in these visits among the people to make political speeches. In regard to the so-called Southern policy I will only say that it is an experiment which, in my judgment, the necessities of the country seemed to demand, and whether it is wise or not can only be determined by results; time will develop the wisdom or fallacy of the position. In marking out this course I relied upon the good sense and judgment of the people to sustain me until the plan should have a fair and practical trial. If I have ever done anything conscientiously it has been this, which the good of the whole country seemed to require. This reception gives me great pleasure, for I did not expect even this. My first recollections of this place are some forty-three years ago. Then there were none of these beautiful trees here, and of the people who occupied these houses all are now probably gone. Then I was in the line of these little ones now before me. Since then I have occasionally visited the place, the last time in 1871, so that I have ever kept its history and its people in view. I have said this much that you might hear the sound of my voice, for I think that is a good deal toward getting acquainted, and I would like to shake hands with you all.
I believe the condition of the colored people is better today than it has ever been. The failure for the last six years of the policy adopted rendered a change necessary, and no change, as you can testify from your own experience, can be for the worse. Society there has been drifting away from us, and a change recognizing bygones as bygones seemed a necessity to prevent our Northern people, with their progressive ideas, from being forever excluded from the Southern country. I am advised through the teachers in the South who have gone forth from Oberlin college that their condition has much improved during the past few months, and there is a marked improvement in the social element of all the better classes of society.