The Old Question in New Shape.
The Volunteer in a notice of Frederick Douglass, raises a question which we were inclined to allow to adjust itself. It says:
What did the speaker refer to? Where had he been snubbed in Carlisle? Upon inquiry, we learned that he had stopped at the “Bentz House,” a most excellent hotel kept by our Republican friend, Mr. Geo. Z. Bentz. Mr. Bentz very properly gave Douglass a good room in his house, but when supper was announced he just as properly informed his sable guest that he could not eat at the public table with his white boarders. Douglass, it was evident from his dejected look, had not expected this kind of treatment. The “Bentz House” has a Republican for its landlord, and nearly all if not all the boarders are also Republicans, and it was not much wonder then that Douglass felt disappointed. He said little, however, and consented to take his meals in his room by himself. With all their professions, then, we have in this circumstance positive evidence that the Radicals are just as loath to recognize negro-equality as the Democrats are. Put them to the test and they squirm like eels in the process of being skinned, when they are asked to take a seat at the same table with a negro. We don’t blame them; human nature is human nature; but we desire the “colored troops who fought bravely,” to note the facts here mentioned.
This question is coming, and may as well be met. Mr. Bentz, of himself, had no disposition to refuse to allow Mr. Douglass to come to the dining room. He put it on the ground that there was so much prejudice here on the subject, that he could not do it without pecuniary loss. This seemed to be almost certain from the ordinary street talk of the town, and, therefore, we find no fault with Mr. Bentz for his action. He was under no obligation to incur even the risk of loss in the matter. As a question of fact, however, we respectfully differ. If Mr. Douglass had gone into the dining room, it is quite possible that two or three persons, out of the whole number there, might have illustrated their superior manners by contemptuously leaving the room; but they would have come back afterwards rather than to have gone anywhere else on such provocation, and that would have ended the matter. We don’t believe seriously, Mr. Bentz would have been out a penny in the transaction. But as we said before, to judge from the silly clamor on this questions, there was a risk, and we don’t blame Mr. Bentz for avoiding it.
Now we wish to say a word on this question. There is in this community a prevailing sentiment that a colored man – because he is a colored man – should not be received into a hotel. This is simply silly and wicked. It has never been denied that a colored man has a right to travel wherever he pleases, just as a white man or an Indian has. When he travels, he must rely on houses for the accommodation of travelers for food and shelter. He has no right to impose himself on any private family, and cannot come within the door of the meanest hovel in the place he visits, uninvited, except as a trespasser. The public sentiment that refuses to allow any man who will conform to the rules of a public house to be entertained, when he is away from his family, if developed logically, would allow him to starve or freeze in the streets. That it is wicked, tyrannical and cowardly, needs no argument to prove.
But look at its absurdity. There is no degradation of the white race possible that excludes from hotel accommodations. The worst and vilest characters in the land are continually on the wing, and hotels receive and entertain them as guests and often knowingly. A Chinaman or a Japanese would be given room anywhere, and no one’s dignity would be compromised. A lot of half naked; painted savages from the plains, could stop anywhere without any restrictions, although, perhaps, their scalping knives were spotted with the blood of some members of our superior and very consistent race. But so carefully and thoroughly have small politicians excited the prejudices of the people of some parts of this country against the negro race, that when a man venerable in years, of learning, refinement, extraordinary ability and character in all respects; one who, without any official station or position, whatever, has been received and entertained by Presidents, governors and leading statesmen of this country, visits a country town on business, he must in deference to this stupid and malignant prejudice be insulted by the information that the boarders at the hotel refuse to eat in the same room with him. This would be funny, indeed if it were’nt contemptible.
But the social equality nonsense must be discussed. Who ever heard of social equality in any place on this earth where there were enough of people to relieve each individual from being directly dependent on every one else? Each person in a community chooses his own society, provided the people he likes see fit to associate with him. If they do not, he then takes himself to the society which will endure him. A man must have a slight opinion of his neighbor’s sanity, who would insist that eating in the same dining room at a hotel established or implied any other equality than that which grows out of a common brotherhood of men. It is simply right that no man should be proscribed because of his color or race, and this we will all recognize when we have out grown our prejudices.
But we will soon have an end of this trouble .We have learned that a country can exist without enslaving black men ; that the peace, order and prosperity of a community are in no wise imperilled by allowing them to vote, to sit on juries, or even to hold any office to which they may be appointed or chosen. We have also had demonstrated that it does not seriously injure the health or life of white men to give them equal accommodations on railroad cars when they pay the same fare. Most persons now living will also learn that the way-farer who ways the common charges at a hotel, is entitled to all the privileges of a guest ; and after they have learned it, they will appreciate how extremely silly are all actions dictated by prejudice.