"We know that any young man, whether he be poor or black, or both, may enter any first-class college in America and find warm sympathetic friends, both among students and faculty, if he but prove himself to be possessed of some good qualities."
This is the keynote to the whole thing. One must not expect to do as one pleases, whether that be right or wrong, or right according to some fanatical theory, and notwithstanding to be dealt with in a manner warranted only by the strictest notion of right. We must force others to treat us as we wish, by giving them such an example of meekness and of good conduct as will at least shame them into a like treatment of us. This is the safer and surer method of revenge.
"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."
To proceed: I am undoubtedly a first-classman. None other has enjoyed that eminence. There are many honors and responsibilities incident to that position or rank. First-classmen have authority at times over their fellow- cadets. How will it be when I come to have that authority? Will that same coldness and distance be manifested as hitherto? These are important questions. I shall be brought necessarily into closer relations with the cadets than before. How will they accept such relationship? The greatest proof of their personal convictions will be manifested in their conduct here. If they evade my authority, or are stubborn or disobedient, then are their convictions unfriendly indeed. But if kind, generous, willing to assist, to advise, to obey, to respect myself as well as my office, then are they, as I ever believed
them to be, gentlemen in all that recognizes no prejudice, no caste, nothing inconsistent with manhood.
There are certain privileges accorded to first-classmen which the other classes do not enjoy. The privates of the first class do duty as officers of the guard, as company officers at company and battalion drills, at light battery drills, and at other drills and ceremonies. In all these cases they have command of other cadets. These cadets are subject to their orders and are liable to be reported--indeed such is required--for disobedience, stubbornness, or for any thing prejudicial to good order and good discipline.
In this fact is a reason--the only one, I think, which will in any manner account for the unpardonable reserve of many of the cadets. To be subject to me, to my orders, was to them an unbearable torture. As they looked forward to the time when I should exercise command over them, they could not help feeling the mortification which would be upon them.
I must modify my statement. They may be prejudiced, and yet gentlemen, and if gentlemen they will not evade authority even though vested in me.