London: February 1877.
Dear E – , –
I was down South this winter alone for nearly two months, winding up our affairs there, previous to leaving the country, for some time at least. Many pleasant reminiscences of our Southern home will remain imprinted on my mind, and my connection with the negroes will be amongst the pleasantest.
The fact is, that with all their faults there is something that attracts one much to these Africans, and if only they could be left alone by the agitators from the North, there would be little doubt but that Southern whites and blacks would soon pull well together.
You may perhaps have read some very excellent letters which have lately been appearing in the Times, from its Special Correspondent; if so, you will have been able to form some fair idea of the real state of affairs down there, which have been hitherto so much misrepresented. I see that in his last letter, which was dated from New Orleans, January 25, and which was in the Times of February 16, he is good enough to refer to a conversation he had with me at Charlestown on the subject of the two races in Georgia, and mentions a certain incident which I related to him to illustrate the good feeling which existed there between whites and blacks. The full particulars are these.
Lewis Jackson, a black man, who by the way has acted as churchwarden of the coloured church at Darien, was put up by the white Democrats of the place to fill the position of Ordinary of the city, and he was opposed by a white man who was chiefly supported by the black Republicans. This would scarcely be believed by men in the North, who declare that in Georgia no negro has a chance of office, and that no negro votes the Democratic ticket unless he is intimidated into so doing.
Another negro in Darien, who held the office of constable, not only voted for the Democratic ticket, but happening to have twins born that day, named one ‘Tilden Centennial Guyton,’ and the other ‘Hendricks Centennial Guyton,’ which I do not suppose he could have been intimidated into doing. The fact is the intimidation is generally the other way, and negroes who do not hold important positions like Jackson and Guyton are afraid to vote for the Democrats because of their own people.
The Northerners take it for granted that every negro must be Republican, because the Republicans released them from bondage; they seem to forget that since the war the Republicans have really done nothing for the negroes, nor in any way fulfilled the many promises they made to them. The Freedmen’s Bureau has only striven to set the freedmen against their old masters; the Freedmen’s Bank, after getting hold of all their savings, broke, and they lost all they had put in it. The Freedmen’s Mission has, with all its professions, done scarcely anything for their spiritual welfare, and they are still left in the hands of ignorant, unscrupulous, and immoral political negro preachers, who are mere tools in the hands of a party.
On the other hand they look to their old masters for employment, and for any little help they may require. Is it to be wondered at then, that having been cheated and defrauded in every way by those whom they looked upon as their saviours, they should begin to turn to their old masters, who they find after all are their best friends? They are called down-trodden, but anyone who last month witnessed in Charlestown their wonderful annual procession to celebrate Emancipation, which is so graphically described by the Special Correspondent of the Times, and which he and I witnessed together, would certainly have come away with the impression that the whites and not the blacks of Charlestown were the down-trodden ones.
But to return to our own negroes, we parted from each other with many mutual regrets. On the last day of the old year, Sunday, I held two full services with them, with celebration of the Holy Communion, besides having a service and celebration for the whites at their church five miles the other side of Darien. The evening service I held at my own little Chapel on the Island, which was crowded, as several of my congregation from Darien came over in boats to attend; they sang many of their favourite hymns, and the service was not over until nearly ten o’clock.
After service, the night being a beautiful moonlight one, I took it into my head, as I felt rather excited after my day’s work, to start off for our favourite St. Simon’s Island, 15 miles off. So, much to the astonishment of the old foreman, I ordered the long-boat out, and, with four good rowers, we started on our journey. A most pleasant journey it was, the rowers singing their quaint songs all the way, whilst I lay wrapped up in the stern, steering. We reached St. Simon’s at 12.30, and so saw the New Year in. Arrived at the Cottage there, we soon had a blazing fire of pine wood, and I drew the sofa up in front of the burning logs, and, wrapped up in my blanket, was soon fast asleep, whilst my negroes lay round the kitchen fire, perfectly happy. Next morning the St. Simon’s people came all up to the house to bid me God speed, after which I wandered alone through the solitary woods of this beautiful Island.
The following Thursday I held a farewell service at the new church at Darien, and charged my hearers to do their utmost to carry on the work that had been thus auspiciously begun. After service, every member of the congregation came up to shake hands and bid me farewell, and I was much touched by their simple, affectionate, but respectful manner. God grant that they may have some minister amongst them to take a real and hearty interest in their spiritual welfare. I am sure much can be done with these poor simple, ignorant people.
Whilst in New York, preparatory to leaving in the steamer, I went to see the secretary of the Episcopal Missionary Society for coloured people, and I urged on him the immediate wants of the congregation of St. Cyprian’s church at Darien, and I am happy to say that I so far succeeded as to get a promise from him that the Society would send down a coloured minister, and pay his expenses for six months; this, at all events, will enable the Bishop to look out for further aid.
Now that I am in England, I intend to make personal appeals for fresh supplies to send out to Darien. I might give you some account of our journey home, but I am afraid I have already written too much. I will only say that we made a wonderfully quick trip in the White Star steamer ‘Britannic.’ We were to have left on the 20th, but, owing to a fog, we did not leave New York until January 21. The first three days the weather was fine and calm, the rest of the journey it blew a perfect gale; fortunately, the wind was with us and carried us along. We arrived at Queenstown on the 29th, having accomplished the voyage from land to land in less than eight days.
I saw in the papers that a steamer which was going from England to New York had taken twenty-seven days; rather a difference. The 30th, the day we reached Liverpool, was the day of the terrific gale which did so much mischief all over England. It was the first time that I had seen a really big sea, and although these mountains of waves were awful to behold, they were nevertheless very grand, especially at night by moonlight. On the Sunday I performed Divine Service, and it was hard work to keep my equilibrium, so I am not sorry to be once more on ‘terra firma,’ and that terra my own land, Old England.