Another matter, closely akin to this, is that of the astonishing lust for torture that more and more is actuating the American people. When in 1835 McIntosh was burned in St. Louis for the murder of an officer, the American people stood aghast, and Abraham Lincoln, just coming into local prominence, spoke as if the very foundations of the young republic had been shaken. After the Civil War, however, horrible lynchings became frequent; and within the last decade we have seen a Negro boy stabbed in numberless places while on his way to the stake, we have seen the eyes of a Negro man burned out with hot irons and pieces of his flesh cut off, and a Negro woman—whose only offense was a word of protest against the lynching of her husband—while in the state of advanced pregnancy hanged head downwards, her clothing burned from her body, and herself so disemboweled that her unborn babe fell to the ground. We submit that any citizens who commit such deeds as these are deserving of the most serious concern of their country; and when they bring their little children to behold their acts—when baby fingers handle mutilated flesh and baby eyes behold such pictures as we have suggested—a crime has been committed against the very name of childhood. Most frequently it will be found that the men who do these things have had only the most meager educational advantages, and that generally—but not always—they live in remote communities, away from centers of enlightenment, so that their whole course of life is such as to cultivate provincialism. With not the slightest touch of irony whatever we suggest that these men need a crusade of education in books and in the fundamental obligations of citizenship. At present their ignorance, their prejudice, and their lack of moral sense constitute a national menace.
It is full time to pause. We have already gone too far. The Negro problem is only an index to the ills of society in America. In our haste to get rich or to meet new conditions we are in danger of losing all of our old standards of conduct, of training, and of morality. Our courts need to summon a new respect for themselves. The average citizen knows only this about them, that he wants to keep away from them. So far we have not been assured of justice. The poor man has not stood an equal chance with the rich, nor the black with the white. Money has been freely used, even for the changing of laws if need be; and the sentencing of a man of means generally means only that he will have a new trial. The murders in any American city average each year fifteen or twenty times as many as in an English or French city of the same size. Our churches need a new baptism; they have lost the faith. The same principle applies in our home-life, in education, in literature. The family altar is almost extinct; learning is more easy than sound; and in literature as in other forms of art any passing fad is able to gain followers and pose as worthy achievement.