Our Elevation in the United States

Martin R. Delany

The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States

1852

That very little comparatively as yet has been done to attain a respectable position as a class in this country will not be denied, and that the successful accomplishments of this end is also possible must also be admitted; but in what manner, and by what means has long been, and is even now, by the best thinking mind among the colored people themselves, a matter of difference of opinion.

We believe in the universal equality of man, and believe in that declaration of God’s word in which it is there positively said that “God has made of one blood all the nations that dwell on the face of the earth.” Now of “the nations that dwell on the face of the earth,” that is, all the people, there are one thousand millions of souls, and of this vast number of human beings, two thirds are colored, from black tending in complexion to the olive, or that of the Chinese with all the intermediate and admixtures of black and white, with the various “crosses” as they are physiologically, but erroneously termed, to white. We are thus explicit in stating these points because we are determined to be understood by all. We have then: two colored to one white person throughout the earth, and yet, singular as it may appear, according to the present geographical and political history of the world, the white race predominates over the colored; or in other words, wherever there is one white person, that one rules and governs two colored persons.

This is a living undeniable truth to which we call the especial attention of the colored reader in particular. Now there is cause for this, as there is no effect without a cause, a comprehensible remediable cause. We all believe in the justice of God, that he is impartial, “looking upon his children with an eye of care,” dealing out to them all the measure of his goodness; yet, how can we reconcile ourselves to the difference that exists between the colored and the white races, as they truthfully present themselves before our eyes? To solve this problem is to know the remedy; and to know it is but necessary, in order successfully to apply it. And we shall but take the colored people of the United States, as a fair sample of the colored races everywhere of the present age, as the arguments that apply to the one will apply to the other, whether Christians, Mahomedans or pagans.

The colored races are highly susceptible of religion, it is a constituent principle of their nature, and an excellent trait in their character. But unfortunately for them they carry it too far. Their hope is largely developed and consequently they usually stand still, hope in God, and really expect Him to do that for them which it is necessary they should do themselves. This is their great mistake, and arises from a misconception of the character and ways of Deity. We must know God, that is understand His Nature and purposes, in order to serve Him; and to serve Him well is but to know Him rightly. To depend for assistance upon God, is a duty and right, but to know when, how, and in what manner to obtain it, is the key to this great Bulwark of Strength, and Depository of Aid.

God himself is perfect; perfect in all his works and ways. He had means for every end; and every means used must be adequate to the end to be gained. God’s means are laws, fixed laws of nature, a part of His own being, and as immutable, as unchangeable as Himself. Nothing can be accomplished but through the medium of, and comformable to these laws.

They are three, and like God himself, represented in the three persons in the Godhead, the Spiritual, Moral, and Physical Laws.

That which is Spiritual can only be accomplished through the medium of the Spiritual law,; that which is Moral, through the medium of the Moral law; and that which is Physical, through the medium of Physical law. Otherwise than this, it is useless to expect anything. Should a person want a spiritual blessing, he must apply through the medium of the spiritual law: pray for it in order to obtain it. If they desire to do a moral good, they must apply through the medium of the moral law: exercise their sense and feeling of right and justice, in order to effect it. Do they want to attain a physical end, they can only do so through the medium of the physical law: go to work with muscles, hands, limbs, might, and strength and this, and nothing else will attain it.

The argument that man must pray for what he receives is a mistake, and one that is doing the colored people, especially, incalculable injury. That man must pray in order to get to Heaven every Christian will admit, but a great truth we have yet got to learn is that he can live on earth whether he is religious or not, so that he conforms to the great law of God, regulating the things of earth; the great physical laws. It is only necessary, in order to convince our people of their error and palpable mistake in this matter to call their attention to the fact that there are no people more religious in the Country, than the colored people, and none so poor and miserable as they. That prosperity and wealth smile upon the efforts of wicked white men, whom we know to utter the name of God with curses, instead of praises; that among the slaves, there are thousands of them religious, continually raising their voices, sending up their prayers to God, invoking His aid in their behalf, asking for a speedy deliverance; but they are still in chains, although they have thrice suffered out their three score years and ten. That “God send the rain upon the just and unjust,” should be sufficient to convince us that our success in life does not depend upon our religious character, but that the physical laws governing all earthly and temporary affairs benefit equally the just and the unjust. Any other doctrine than this is downright delusion unworthy of a free people, and only intended for slaves. That all men and women should be moral, upright, good, and religious, (we mean Christians), we would not utter a word against, and could only wish that it were so; but, what we here desire to do is to correct the long standing error among a large body of the colored people in this country that the cause of our oppression and degradation is the displeasure of God towards us; because if God is just, and He is, there could be no justice in prospering white men with his fostering care, for more than two thousand years, in all their wickedness while dealing out to the colored people, the measure of his displeasure, for not half the wickedness as that of the whites. Here then is our mistake, and let it forever henceforth be corrected. We are no longer slaves, believing any interpretation that our oppressors may give the word of God, for the purpose of deluding us to the more easy subjugation; but freemen, comprising some of the first minds of intelligence and rudimental qualifications in the country. What then is the remedy for our degradation and oppression? This appears now to be the only remaining question, the means of successful elevation in this our own native land? This depends entirely upon the application of the means of Elevation.

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