A right must depend on the capacity and end or aim of the man. This capacity and end may, and ought to be, moral, and not political only. Equal capacities and a like end must give equal rights, and unequal capacities and unlike ends unequal rights, morally, of course, for the political end of all men is the same. And therefore, since a proper society is a moral institution where a certain uniformity of views, aims, purposes, properties, etc., is the object, there must be also a uniformity or equality of rights, for otherwise there would be no society, no social equality.
This, I apprehend, is precisely the state of affairs in our own country. Among those who, claiming social equality, claim it as a right, there exists the greatest possible diversity of creeds, instincts, and of moral and mental conditions, in which they are widely different from those with whom they claim this equality. They can therefore have no rights socially in common; or, in other words, the social equality they claim is not a right, and ought not to and cannot exist under present circumstances, and any law that overreaches the moral reason to the contrary must be admitted as unjust if not impolitic.
But it is color, they say, color only, which determines how the negro must be treated. Color is his misfortune, and his treatment must be his misfortune also. Mistaken idea! and one of which we should speedily rid ourselves. It may be color in some cases, but in the great majority of instances it is mental and moral condition. Little or no education, little moral refinement, and all their repulsive consequences will never be accepted as equals of education, intellectual or moral. Color is absolutely nothing in the consideration of the question, unless we mean by it not color of skin, but color of character, and I fancy we can find considerable color there.
It has been said that my success at West Point would be a grand victory in the way of equal rights, meaning, I apprehend, social rights, social equality, inasmuch as all have, under existing laws, equal political rights. Doubtless there is much truth in the idea. If, however, we consider the two races generally, we shall see there is no such right, no such social right, for the very basis of such a right, viz., a similarity of tastes, instincts, and of mental and moral conditions, is wanting. The mental similarity especially is wanting, and as that shapes and refines the moral one, that too is wanting.
To illustrate by myself, without any pretensions to selfishness. I have this right to social equality, for I and those to whom I claim to be equal are similarly educated. We have much in common, and this fact alone creates my right to social and equal recognition.
"But the young gentlemen who boast of holding only official intercourse with their comrade, should remember that no one of them stands before the country in any different light from him. . . . Amalgamated by the uniform course of studies and the similarity of discipline, the separating fragments at the end of the student life carry similar qualities into the life before them, and step with almost remarkable social equality into the world where they must find their level."--Philadelphia North American, July 7th, 1876.
If we apply this to the people as a unit, the similarity no longer exists. The right, therefore, also ceases to exist.
The step claimed to have been made by my success is one due to education, and not to my position or education at West Point, rather than at some other place; so that it follows if there be education, if the mental and moral condition of the claimants to that right be a proper one, there will necessarily be social equality, and under other circumstances there can be no such equality.