The editor of the Richmond Daily Dispatch ridicules Henry Ward Beecher’s call for letting black men vote. The piece is almost a self-caricature in its racism, but the anti-democratic underpinning is far more interesting.
“This thing of Universal Suffrage, even among white men, is, in the peculiar vernacular of his own land, ‘played out,'” he says, and then displays some nostalgia for the Eden of suffrage restricted to landowners before 1820. People are fed up with democracy, he says: “They want no more of it, and would any day rather have king, lords and commons, with safety to life and property, and plenty to eat, than Universal Suffrage.”
The Rev. H. W. Beecher expresses himself strongly in favor of giving universal suffrage to the Africans. As universal suffrage costs nothing to the giver, we are not at all astonished by the generosity of his Reverence, though it may be doubted whether the proposed recipients will be as much delighted with it as with bacon and greens. If he will give them this, or corn cake and fat possum, we are sure they will like it better than universal suffrage. We dare say we should ourselves, for, as at present advised, we do not know of any animal or vegetable production which we would not think it a good bargain to purchase at the cost of that commodity.
Far be it from us to suppose that the native African citizen of the South is less capable of digesting with safety such diet as universal suffrage than the members of Mr. Beecher’s own congregation. Those who would propose the extension of universal suffrage to the negroes of this country are no better fitted for self-government than the class to be endowed with it. We do not know but the best thing that could be done for the world would be to carry out Mr. Beecher’s proposition. If the evil did not work its cure in six months, to such an extent that the world would never hear of Universal Suffrage again, we are no prophet.
Mr. Beecher, fast apostle as he is, is behind the age. This thing of Universal Suffrage, even among white men, is, in the peculiar vernacular of his own land, “played out.” There are people still living in America who are old enough to remember that, before the days of Universal Suffrage, the land enjoyed quiet and security, the judiciary was independent, there were no defaulting sheriffs, the race of demagogues was impotent for mischief, the best talent of the country was in the highest places. The people were content enough with the rewards of labor and the security of life and property, and might have lived in peace and plenty till this day if that internal machine, Universal Suffrage, had never been contrived. They want no more of it, and would any day rather have king, lords and commons, with safety to life and property, and plenty to eat, than Universal Suffrage.
Moreover, it may be doubted whether this cast-off ray of American Progress would suit the genius and tastes of Mr. Beecher’s sable compatriots. Cuffee is no Republican. He is a great aristocrat, as fond of title, rank and wealth as he is of hog meat and hominy. If Mr. Beecher will study the history of St. Domingo, he will find that Counts and Dukes are much more in Cuffee’s line than universal suffrage. Unless Mr. Beecher has something better than that to give him, he will look upon him as “poor white trash,” and refuse to recognise him as a man and a brother.