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Confederate History Month 2012: “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman on The Irrepressible Conflict

Ben Tillman on the irrepressible conflict between the free negro and civilization

South Carolina

Chauncey DeVega is absolutely right when he claims we are “the intellectual and emotive kin of racist White populists who lived centuries before.”

There is a genetic relationship between the advice given in John Derbyshire’s “The Talk: The Nonblack Version” and the arguments that “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman was making before the U.S. Senate a hundred years ago.

Pursuing recent headlines we discover that (in spite of all that marching) nothing much about the fundamental racial character of black people has really changed since Ben Tillman’s generation:

“There was an irrepressible conflict in 1860 between slavery and freedom: between the idea of a confederation of States and a perpetual Union. Is there any man bold enough to deny that there is an irrepressible conflict now between civilization and barbarism and that the living together upon an absolute plane of equality of the two races in the South—one the highest, the other the lowest in the scale—is an impossibility without strife or bloodshed?

. . . In the ultimate conclusion of this issue we will take care of ourselves, and if we can not do it without help we will get in the North all the recruits who believe in white supremacy and white civilization that we want or need. Thank God, ‘blood is thicker than water.’ But we do not want to have to go through the fearful ordeal and crime of butchering the negro.

I realize that there are millions of good negroes, if they are let alone and not taught heresies and criminal thoughts and feelings and actions. I should like to see this good, easy, good-for-nothing people given a chance to live. Give them justice; give them equal rights before the law; enable them to get property and keep it, and be protected in its enjoyment; give them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, provided their happiness does not destroy mine. . . “

This is what the U.S. State Department knew about Haiti and Liberia a century ago:

“The experience of Liberia and Haiti show that the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organization and lack genius for government. Unquestionably there is an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature. Of course, there are many exceptions to this racial weakness, but it is true of the mass, as we know from experience in this country. It is that which makes the negro problem practically unsolvable.”
– Secretary of State Robert Lansing, 1918

If the Black Undertow is not restrained by the law, wealth disparities, or social customs, it systematically destroys the lives, the liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of civilized White people.

In this irrepressible conflict with African-Americans, White people have the right to take our own side. We have the right to say that their presence in our communities is unwanted and undesirable.