"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.
"Remember, dear friend," says a correspondent, "that you carry an unusual responsibility. The nation is interested in what you do. If you win your diploma, your enemies lose and your friends gain one very important point in the great argument for equal rights. When you shall have demonstrated that you have equal powers, then equal rights will come in due time. The work which you have chosen, and from which you cannot now flinch without dishonor, proves far more important than either you or me (Faculty at A. U.) at first conceived. Like all great things its achievement will involve much of trial and hardship."
Alas! how true! What a trial it is to be socially ostracized, to live in the very midst of life and yet be lonely, to pass day after day without saying perhaps a single word other than those used in the section-room during a recitation. How hard it is to live month after month without even speaking to woman, without feeling or knowing the refining influence of her presence! What a miserable existence!
Oh! 'tis hard, this lonely living, to be In the midst of life so solitary, To sit all the long, long day through and gaze In the dimness of gloom, all but amazed At the emptiness of life, and wonder What keeps sorrow and death asunder. 'Tis the forced seclusion most galls the mind, And sours all other joy which it may find. 'Tis the sneer, tho' half hid, is bitter still, And wakes dormant anger to passion's will. But oh! 'tis harder yet to bear them all Unangered and unheedful of the thrall, To list the jeer, the snarl, and epithet All too base for knaves, and e'en still forget Such words were spoken, too manly to let Such baseness move a nobler intellect. But not the words nor even the dreader disdain Move me to anger or resenting pain. 'Tis the thought, the thought most disturbs my mind, That I'm ostracized for no fault of mine, 'Tis that ever-recurring thought awakes Mine anger--
Such a life was mine, not indeed for four years, but for the earlier part of my stay at the Academy.
But to return to our subject. There are two questions involved in my case. One of them is, Can a negro graduate at West Point, or will one ever graduate there? And the second, If one never graduate there, will it be because of his color or prejudice?