James Madison Bell

The Future of America, in the Unity of the Races

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Respectfully dedicated to BISHOP BENJAMIN W. ARNETT, A life-long and devoted friend and a noble and loyal citizen whose work for God and the good of the race is bearing its fruits, presenting to the present generation of colored youth an inspiring example for their honest, earnest, individual effort.


Once in a time along the Jordan,
And e'en from Beersheba to Dan,
The question rife and all-absorbing
Hither and thither wildly ran,
What think you of this Christ, this Jesus?
What of his intercourse with man?
The which to solve full many a thesis
Has been the sport of mind and pen.


But we today would feign a question
Bring home to each American;
No deep-veiled, mystified suggestion,
But simply, what think you of man?
Not of the angels high and holy,
Not of the streets of shining gold,
Nor of the doomed in hades lowly,
Nor of time, with his step so bold.


These were themes for speculation,
On which the mind might cogitate
And weary e'en imagination,
With heights, and depths, and breadth so great.
But what of man, is he thy brother,
In all his variableness of hue?
And is thy God and God thy Father,
Alike his God and Father, too?


Is he entitled and deserving
In all that's common to the race,
Whether in ruling or in serving,
Adjudged by fitness in the case?
These are the questions of the hour,
And these the issues of the day;
On these the wisdom, skill and power
Of this great nation deigns to play.


For here, not only the religion,
But each man's patriot faith and creed,
Will blazen forth in his decision
Till even he that runs may read.
Therefore, let him within whose nature
An impulse lives, though weak, to do
Aright by every living creature,
Cherish that impulse and be true --


True to a grand and generous manhood;
True to the spirit of the age,
Whose motto is untrammeled selfhood
For human life in every stage,
And on this heaven-established basis
Whoever builds near need not make haste,
For coming freedman's glorious trace,
Too radiant are to be defaced.


Too high within the mortal heaven
Has risen the star of destiny,
And far too wide has spread the leaven
Of freedom and equality.
We may not with a will concede it,
As from the fullness of our hearts,
But freedman's God has thus decreed it,
And the boon we must impart.


No combined power of human effort
Can turn the joyous time aside,
Laden with fruits of hope and comfort
To anxious millions long denied.
As well confront the mighty ocean,
Lashing with rage his rock-bound shores,
And strive to curb his wild commotion,
Or drown the thunder of his roar,
As to resist the coming morrow
Which liberty, and truth, and God
Have promised these dark sons of sorrow
So long enchained and 'neath the rod.


Must we put forth our vain endeavors
And waste our efforts on the wind,
And learn too late that mortals never
Can change what heaven has designed?
We may provoke God's indignation,
And cause the heavens again to frown,
Till his avenging visitations
Cause us in sorrow to bow down,
Yet on and on will sweep the current,
Now putting in from Freedom's sea,
Rushing onward like a torrent,
Flooding the land with liberty.


We may attempt to drive them from us,
Beyond the confines of our shore,
For even now are there among us
Monsters with thoughts so vile in store.


But dare we do it, these jester's slave-men,
Poor dupes of unrequitted toil,
When we can no longer deprave them,
Drive them to other lands, the spoil
Of a miasma wildly raging
Beneath an endless summer's sun,
Where listless sloth has been enslaving
The mind of man since time begun?


Dare we do this, and righteous heaven
Pour out on us new vials of wrath,
Until our land, all rent and riven,
Shall welter in a crimson bath?
Oh, stand in awe of God's displeasure;
Our sure destruction we may buy,
And through our baseness fill the measure
Of our guilt, and cursed of heaven die.


The means of life and self destruction
Are placed in every nation's reach,
While error, the bane of reproduction,
Insinuates at every breach.
Beware! If God has built this nation
All its constituents are good
And needful to its preservation,
Whether they be stone or wood.


We may not comprehend the structure
In full minutial design,
Nor trace its varied architecture
In arris, groove, and curve, and line.


Be but faithful, and the Great Grand Master
Will on his trestle board make plain
All that's obtuse, but no whit faster
Than 'twere needful to explain.


But can we not perceive a purpose
In the peopling of this land,
Destined of God to be the foremost
And the grandest of the grand?
And have we not beheld the nations
In spreading o'er the vastly sphere,
That as they spread them weaker traces
Of their varied types appear?
There is a principle in nature,
And demonstrative everywhere,
Inanimate and breathing creature,
The self-established truth declare;


All branches of the common center
Diminish and weaken in their course,
The germ in every part doth enter,
But ever with abated force.
Behold the oak with spreading branches,
The trunk-life lives in every branch,
But as in length each limb advances
It loses strength and sustenance.
The giant oak's unbroken forces
Within no single branch is found,
And faultless nature ne'er reverses
This law in all her varied round.


The huge oak's branches, closely blended
And all completely unified,
Would rival all the force expended,
And varied life so long supplied.


Turn to those early peopled regions --
To Europe, Asia, Africa:
The home of science and religions,
And tell us what of them today?
Where now is all their former glory?
And where that grandeur and renown
That radiates the page of story,
As diamond jettings doth a crown?


Where now their sculptors and their sages,
Their painters and their orators?
And where the pride of all the ages --
Their poets and philosophers?
Where now the minds that planned their temples,
The proud Colossus reared at Rhodes,
Grand architectural examples
And ever-living sculptural modes?
Their day of grandeur has departed;
Their sun of glory has gone down,
And passed away the valiant hearted,
Their mighty men of great renown.


Their wondrous temples are in ruins,
Apollo sleeps beneath the sea;
For time has here wrought sad undoings
And carved on all degeneracy.
The branch had here become too distant
From the great Adamic tree,
And hence the germ and life assistant
Had grown too meagre in degree;
For where man lives in isolation,
Though vast possessions he embrace,
As family, tribe, kingdom or nation,
Degeneracy has marked the race.


Hence, while the clannish tribes were sweeping
The wide-spread east in their unrest,
Heaven for a glorious end was keeping
In blest reserve the mighty west;
But not until their wasted powers
Gave evidence of sure decay,
Was this wealth-flowing land of ours
Thrown in a wandering seaman's way,
Wherein a branch of every nation
And tongue and tribe beneath the sun,
Should spend the days of their probation
And finally converge into one --


One, wherein the scattered forces
Of the great Adamic tree,
With all its varied life resources,
Should blend in perfect harmony.
And by that unifying process,
Give earth once more a glorious type
Of wisdom, grace and noble prowess
Co-equal with the architype;


A genius of a new creation,
Whom all shall hail with loud acclaim,
Whose boast shall be a blood relation
To all the kindred sons of fame.
Toward this seeming innovation
Point all the dial hands of fate,
And to its final consummation
On fleeting Time's revolving plate.


It may be years, it may be ages,
The finale is with God alone,
Who measures not by dates and pages,
But by the fiat of his throne;


For in the near or distant future
Of all those tribal branches here,
Scarce aught will live in speech or feature
Of what their great ancestors were.


For with the unity of branches
Will come a unity of speech,
Correcting old and groundless fancies
Discordant tongues could never reach.


Dependent are we on each other
And parts essential to a whole,
Strive as we may this fact to smother,
The truth will brook all vain control.


One man, Jehovah, God created,
In whom all graces did combine,
To whom earth's myriads are related,
E'en as the branch is to the vine.


And as the thrifty vine while growing
Round distant limbs its fibers twine,
With all its wealth of shade bestowing,
Comprises but a single vine.


So, in the light of heaven's deeming,
Whose broad eye doth creation span
Earth's tribes in all their varied seeming,
Combine to form a single man.


We are not independent creatures;
Our brothers' keepers are we all,
Bearing the likeness and the features
Of God, our Maker, great and small;


Though darker than the shades of blackness,
Or fairer than the morning light,
It matters not, in strict exactness,
God's image are we, black or white.


The inspirations of our natures,
Declare to us, though erring creatures,
Of each we are integral parts.
Then here, where fortune has assigned us,
'Neath God's blue dome of liberty,
Let deathless bands of friendship bind us
In bonds of blest fidelity,
That in the future grand unfolding,
When all our dark, perplexing fears,
Respecting rights and their withholding,
Are buried in the grave of years,
Man shall arise in all his grandeur,
In all his native dignity,
And go forth daring fear or danger,
The ward of peace and liberty.

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James Madison Bell