As to treatment in the section-room, where there were many opportunities to do me injustice by giving me low marks for all recitations, good or bad, for instance, they have scrupulously maintained their honor, and have treated me there with exact justice and impartiality. This is not a matter of opinion. I can give direct and positive proof of its truthfulness. In the chapter on "Studies," in the record of marks that proof can be found, my marks per recitation, and the average are good. By rank in section is meant the order of my mark-- that is, whether best, next, the next, or lowest. Are these marks not good? In law, for example, once I received the eighth out of nine marks, then the fifth, the first, second, third, first, first, and so on. Surely there was nothing in them to show I was marked low either purposely or otherwise.
My marks in the section for each week, month, and the number of men in each section, afford the means of comparison between the other members of the section and myself. And my marks are not only evidence of the possession on my part of some "good faculties," but also of the honor of my instructors and fellow-members of section.
What manner of treatment the cadets chose to manifest toward me was then of course of no account. But what is of importance, and great importance too, is how they will treat me in the army, when we have all assumed the responsibilities of manhood, coupled with those of a public servant, an army officer. Of course the question cannot now be answered. I feel nevertheless assured that the older officers at least will not stoop to prejudice or caste, but will accord me proper treatment and respect. Men of responsibility are concerned, and it is not presumable that they will disregard the requirements of their professions so far as to ill-treat even myself. There is none of the recklessness of the student in their actions, and they cannot but recognize me as having a just claim upon their good-will and honor.
The year wears away--the last year it is too--and I find myself near graduation, with every prospect of success. And from the beginning to the close my life has been one not of trouble, persecution, or punishment, but one of isolation only. True, to an unaccustomed nature such a life must have had many anxieties and trials and displeasures, and, although it was so with me, I have nothing more than that of which to complain. And if such a life has had its unpleasant features, it has also had its pleasant ones, of which not the least, I think, was the constantly growing prospect of ultimate triumph. Again, those who have watched my course and have seen in its success the falsity of certain reports, can not have been otherwise than overjoyed at it, at the, though tardy, vindication of truth. I refer especially to certain erroneous ideas which are or were extant concerning the treatment of colored cadets, in which it is claimed that color decides their fate. (See chapter on "Treatment.")
I hope my success has proved that not color of face, but color of character alone can decide such a question. It is character and nothing else that will merit a harsh treatment from gentlemen, and of course it must be a bad character. If a man is a man, un homme comme il faut, he need fear no ill-treatment from others of like calibre. Gentlemen avoid persons not gentlemen. Resentment is not a characteristic of gentlemen. A gentlemanly nature must shrink from it. There may be in it a certain amount of what is vulgarly termed pluck, and perhaps courage. But what of that? Everybody more or less admires pluck. Everybody worships courage, if it be of a high order, but who allows that pluck or even courage is an excuse for passion or its consequences? The whites may admire pluck in the negro, as in other races, but they will never admit unwarrantable obtrusiveness, or rudeness, or grossness, or any other ungentlemanly trait, and no more in the negro than in others. This is quite just. A negro would not allow it even in another.
I did not intend to discuss social equality here, but as it is not entirely foreign to my subject I may be pardoned a word or so upon it.
Social equality, as I comprehend it, must be the natural, and perhaps gradual, outgrowth of a similarity of instincts and qualities in those between whom it exists. That is to say, there can be no social equality between persons who have nothing in common. A civilized being would not accept a savage as his equal, his socius , his friend. It would be repugnant to nature. A savage is a man, the image of his Maker as much so as any being. He has all the same rights of equality which any other has, but they are political rights only. He who buried his one talent to preserve it was not deemed worthy to associate with him who increased his five to ten. So also in our particular case. There are different orders or classes of men in every civilized community. The classes are politically equal, equal in that they are free men and citizens and have all the rights belonging to such station. Among the several classes there can be no social equality, for they have nothing socially in common, although the members of each class in itself may have.
Now in these recent years there has been a great clamor for rights. The clamor has reached West Point, and, if no bad results have come from it materially, West Point has nevertheless received a bad reputation, and I think an undeserved one, as respects her treatment of colored cadets.