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»Blacks as Principal Characters

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Tippoo Saib (79)
Harper's Weekly, April 2, 1864

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Synopsis

1863

Tippoo, a kind-hearted slave, has his family sold to pay for a substitute for his master’s labor requirement in the war. After this, the master leaves for battle. The kitchen slave tells Tippoo that she is going to escape that night and that he can join her. Not wanting to leave his sick mistress and her young daughter alone, Tippoo refuses to go. The next day, the mistress dies, and Tippoo has another chance to escape. Instead, he takes the young girl to her uncle. Tippoo becomes the property of the uncle, who sends him to build Confederate fortifications. At Roanoke Island, Tippoo captures the uncle, who is a captain, and turns him into the Federal forces. He lives as a freeman in Massachusetts until the call goes out for black troops. Joining the 54th Massachusetts, Tippoo is part of the charge on Battery (Fort) Wagner. There, he meets his old master in battle, but, remembering the young daughter, cannot bring himself to shoot the man. As he turns to go, the master shoots Tippoo in the chest and kills him.

Harper's Text

"Tippoo Saib"
April 2, 1864, pages 214 (1-3)-215 (1-3)

History

"The Attack on Fort Wagner"
August 8, 1863, page 510 (1-2)

Military Background

"The Late Colonel Shaw"
August 15, 1863, page 526 (1-2)

Illustrations


"Teaching the Negro Recruits the
Use of the Minie Rifle"
March 14, 1863, page 161(1-4)


"A Negro Regiment in Action"
March 14, 1863, pages 168 (1-4)-169 (1-4)


"The Attack on Fort Wagner—The Stormers
Advancing Under Fire"
August 8, 1863, page 509 (1-4)

Commentary

"Our Duty in Reorganization"
June 24, 1865, page 387 (1-2)

"Peace," said Edmund Burke, "may be made as unadvisedly as war. Nothing is so rash as fear, and the counsels of pusillanimity very rarely put off, while they are always sure to aggravate, the evils from which they would fly." What this country needs to secure peace is the firm application of a plain principle. The principle of State rights, like that of county rights and town rights, is a good one. But the principle of national rights is the paramount and essential principle of the present situation. All subordinate rights whatever must bend to the national necessity of a local government in every State based upon the consent of the whole body of loyal freemen.

The national authority is fully competent to secure that government. There is no reason whatever why the nation should delegate its authority to secure such State governments in the South to a part of the loyal freemen resident there. At this moment no one loyal freeman of North Carolina has any right to a voice in reorganizing the State which every other does not equally possess. There is no more reason, except in an imaginary view of policy, why the national Government should authorize white loyalists alone to reorganize the State government of North Carolina because the voters in that State were formerly white than that it should authorize the colored loyalists alone to reorganize it because they have been always faithful to the country. As a question of policy merely, it is clear that if any class of loyalists object to reorganize the State upon acknowledged democratic republican principles that is not a class to which the reorganization can be safely intrusted. It is better policy to govern the State directly by the national authority than to relinquish it to such a class.

An apparently well-informed correspondent of the New York Times says, in a late letter from North Carolina: "While many admit that it may be the negro will be qualified to exercise that right in the future, every one thinks that he is not intelligent enough to do so now." "Every one" means, of course, the white population; the class who were formerly among the voters of the State. Yet in the very next paragraph of his letter the correspondent says: "The ignorance of the poorer classes is heart-rending, and their prejudices are strong as only those of ignorant men are…Not more than one-seventh of the voters can read and write." These are the people who think the negro is not intelligent enough to vote; and these are the white loyalists to whom the apologists and friends of the rebellion insist that the right of voting shall be exclusively given because the colored loyalists are not sufficiently "intelligent!" The same correspondent adds: "They exhibit a prejudice against the slave that readily accounts for the ease with which ‘the Southern heart was fired’ during the war." And it is to these persons that it is proposed the question of suffrage for the colored freemen in the State shall be referred.

Is it surprising that, as a letter in the Herald says, "Among the negroes, however, there is sorrow?" Yes, and among ourselves—among the people of the United States, who have still the decision of the question—should there not be shame? Side by side with our brothers and friends, upon the soil of both the Carolinas, the colored men, to whom we had given no special cause to love us or to believe in us, fought for our Government and shared our victory. Side by side the bodies of the brave men, black and white, mingle in the dust. In a nameless grave upon Morris Island the fair-haired Shaw lies "buried with his niggers," all of them, soldiers and leader, having fought in the full faith that their death secured equal rights for all American citizens under the law. So they fought, so they fell, on many a noble field. Shall those who shot them down—those who hated them and the cause which they defended; those who hate the brave living black boys the more because their brethren did not die in vain—be allowed to do at the polls what they could not do in battle? They can not do it any where unless we consent. Can we consent without eternal infamy?

 

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