This was printed in The Temps and created a great sensation in political and literary circles in every section of the country. Every newspaper of any consequence reproduced the oration in full. It was published and commented upon by the leading journals of England. The President of the United States wrote a letter of congratulation to Belton. Everywhere the piece was hailed as a classic.
After reading the oration, Mr. V.M. King, editor of The Temps, decided to take it home with him and read it to his wife. She met him at the door and as he kissed her she noticed that there was a sober look in his eye. Tenderly he brushed back a few stray locks of his wife’s hair, saying as he did so, in a somewhat troubled tone: “Wife, it has come at last. May the good Lord cease not to watch over our beloved but erring land.” She inquired as to what he meant. He led her to his study and read to her Belton’s oration.
In order to understand the words which we have just quoted as being spoken by him to his wife, let us, while he reads, become a little better acquainted with Mr. King and his paper, The Temps.
Mr. King was born and reared in Virginia, was educated at a Northern University, and had sojourned for several years in England. He was a man of the broadest culture. For several years he had given the negro problem most profound study. His views on the subject were regarded by the white people of the South as ultra-liberal. These views he exploited through his paper, The Temps, with a boldness and vigor, gaining thereby great notoriety.
Though a democrat in politics, he was most bitterly opposed to the practice, almost universal in the South, of cheating the negro out of his right to vote. He preached that it was unjust to the negro and fatal to the morals of the whites.
On every possible occasion he viciously assaulted the practice of lynching, denouncing it in most scathing terms. In short, he was an outspoken advocate of giving the negro every right accorded him by the Constitution of the United States.
He saw the South leading the young negro boy and girl to school, where, at the expense of the state, they were taught to read history and learn what real liberty was, and the glorious struggles through which the human race had come in order to possess it. He foresaw that the rising, educated negro would allow his eye to linger long on this bloody but glorious page until that most contagious of diseases, devotion to liberty, infected his soul.
He reasoned that the negro who had endured the hardships of slavery might spend his time looking back and thanking God for that from which he had made his escape; but the young negro, knowing nothing of physical slavery, would be peering into the future, measuring the distance that he had yet to go before he was truly free, and would be asking God and his own right arm for the power to secure whatever rights were still withheld.