Henry Ossian Flipper, The Colored Cadet at West Point
by Henry Ossian Flipper
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But for that other kind, "the one founded upon color," Congress has no remedy, no more than for fanaticism or something of that kind.

This article also tells us that "the government has been remiss in not throwing around them the protection of its authority." I disdainfully scout the idea of such protection. If my manhood cannot stand without a governmental prop, then let it fall. If I am to stand on any other ground than the one white cadets stand upon, then I don't want the cadetship. If I cannot endure prejudice and persecutions, even if they are offered, then I don't deserve the cadetship, and much less the commission of an army officer. But there is a remedy, a way to root out snobbery and prejudice which but needs adoption to have the desired effect. Of course its adoption by a single person, myself for instance, will not be sufficient to break away all the barriers which prejudice has brought into existence. I am quite confident, however, if adopted by all colored cadets, it will eventually work out the difficult though by no means insoluble problem, and give us further cause for joy and congratulations.

The remedy lies solely in our case with us. We can make our life at West Point what we will. We shall be treated by the cadets as we treat them. Of course some of the cadets are low—they belong to the younger classes— and good treatment cannot be expected of them at West Point nor away from there. The others, presumably gentlemen, will treat everybody else as becomes gentlemen, or at any rate as they themselves are treated. For, as Josh Billings quaintly tells us, "a gentleman kant hide hiz true karakter enny more than a loafer kan."

Prejudice does not necessarily prevent a man's being courteous and gentlemanly in his relations with others. If, then, they be prejudiced and treat one with ordinary civility, or even if they let one "severely alone," is there any harm done? Is such a course of conduct to be denounced? Religiously, yes; but in the manner of every -day life and its conventionalities, I say not by any means. I have the right—no one will deny it—of choosing or rejecting as companions whomsoever I will. If my choice be based upon color, am I more wrong in adopting it than I should be in adopting any other reason? it may be an unchristian opinion or fancy that causes me to do it, but such opinion or fancy is my own, and I have a right to it. No one objects to prejudice as such, but to the treatment it is supposed to cause. If one is disposed to ill-treat another, he'll do it, prejudiced or not prejudiced. Only low persons are so disposed, and happily so for West Point, and indeed for the whole country.

"The system of competitive examination for admission, so largely adopted within the past few years in many of our large cities, has resulted in recruiting the corps with lads of bright intellect and more than ordinary attainments, while the strict physical examination has rigorously excluded all but those of good form and perfect health. The competitive system has also given to the Academy students who want to learn, instead of lads who are content to scramble through the prescribed course as best they can, escaping being "found" (a cadet term equivalent to the old college word 'plucked') by merely a hair's- breadth."

The old way of getting rid of the rough, uncouth characters was to "find" them. Few, very few of them, ever got into the army. Now they are excluded by the system of competitive examination even from entering the Military Academy, and if they should succeed in getting to West Point, they eventually fail, since men with no fixed purpose cannot graduate at West Point.

Now if the "colored cadets" be not of this class also, then their life at West Point will not be much harder than that of the others. The cadets may not associate, but what of that? Am I to blame a man who prefers not to associate with me? If that be the only charge against him, then my verdict is for acquittal. Though his conduct arises from, to us, false premises, it is to his sincere convictions right, and we would not in the slightest degree be justified in forcing him into our way of looking at it. In other words, the remedy does not lie with Congress.

The kind of treatment we are to receive at the hands of others depends entirely upon ourselves. I think my life at West Point sufficiently proves the truth of this assertion. I entered the Academy at a time when, as one paper had it, West Point was a "hotbed of disloyalty and snobbery, a useless and expensive appendage." I expected all sorts of ill-treatment, and yet from the day I entered till the day I graduated I had not cause to utter so much as an angry word. I refused to obtrude myself upon the white cadets, and treated them all with uniform courtesy. I have been treated likewise. It simply depended on me what sort of treatment I should receive. I was careful to give no cause for bad treatment, and it was never put upon me. In making this assertion I purposely disregard the instances of malice, etc., mentioned elsewhere, for the reason that I do not believe they were due to any deep personal convictions of my inferiority or personal desire to impose upon me, but rather were due to the fear of being "cut" if they had acted otherwise.

Our relations have been such, as any one will readily observe, that even officially they would have been obliged to recognize me to a greater or less extent, or at the expense of their consciences ignore me. They have done both, as circumstances and not inclination have led them to do.

A rather unexpected incident occurred in the summer of '73, which will show perhaps how intense is that gravitating force—if I may so term it—which so completely changes the feelings of the plebes, and even cadets, who, when they reported, were not at all prejudiced on account of color.

It was rather late at night and extremely dark. I was on guard and on post at the time. Approaching the lower end of my post, No. 5, I heard my name called in a low tone by some one whom I did not recognize. I stopped and listened. The calling was repeated, and I drew near the place whence it came. It proved to be a cadet, a classmate of mine, and then a sentinel on the adjacent post, No. 4. We stood and talked quite awhile, as there was no danger either of being seen by other cadets—an event which those who in any manner have recognized me have strenuously avoided—or "hived standing on post." It was too dark. He expressed great regret at my treatment, hoped it would be bettered, assured me that he would ever be a friend and treat me as a gentleman should.

Another classmate told me, at another time, in effect the same thing. I very naturally expected a fulfilment of these promises, but alas! for such hopes! They not only never fulfilled them, but treated me even as badly as all the others. One of them was assigned a seat next to me at table. He would eat scarcely anything, and when done with that he would draw his chair away and pretend to be imposed upon in the most degrading manner possible. The other practised similar manoeuvres whenever we fell in at any formation of company or section. They both called me "nigger," or "d—d nigger," as suited their inclination. Yet this ought, I verily believe, to be attributed not to them, but to the circumstances that led them to adopt such a course.

On one occasion, however, one of them brought to my room the integration of some differential equation in mechanics which had been sent me by our instructor. He was very friendly then, apparently. He told me upon leaving, if I desired any further information to come to his "house," and he would give it. I observed that he called me "Mr. Flipper."

One winter's night, while on guard in barracks during supper, a cadet of the next class above my own stopped on my post and conversed with me as long as it was safe to do so. He expressed— as all have who have spoken to me—great regret that I should be so isolated, asked how I got along in my studies, and many other like questions. He spoke at great length of my general treatment. He assured me that he was wholly unprejudiced, and would ever be a friend. He even went far enough to say, to my great astonishment, that he cursed me and my race among the cadets to keep up appearances with them, and that I must think none the less well of him for so doing. It was a sort of necessity, he said, for he would not only be "cut," but would be treated a great deal worse than I was if he should fraternize with me. Upon leaving me he said, "I'm d—d sorry to see you come here to be treated so, but I am glad to see you stay."

Unfortunately the gentleman failed at the examination, then not far distant, and of course did not have much opportunity to give proof of his friendship. And thus,

"The walk, the words, the gesture could supply, The habit mimic and the mien belie."

When the plebes reported in '76, and were given seats in the chapel, three of them were placed in the pew with myself. We took seats in the following order, viz., first the commandant of the pew, a sergeant and a classmate of mine, then a third-classman, myself, and the plebes. Now this arrangement was wholly unsatisfactory to the third-classman, who turned to the sergeant and asked of him to place a plebe between him and myself. The sergeant turned toward me, and with an angry gesture ordered me to "Get over there." I refused, on the ground that the seat I occupied had been assigned me, and I therefore had no authority to change it. Near the end of the service the third- classman asked the sergeant to tell me to sit at the further end of the seat. He did so. I refused on the same ground as before. He replied, "Well, it don't make any difference. I'll see that your seat is changed." I feared he would go to the cadet quartermaster, who had charge of the arrangement of seats, and have my seat changed without authority. I reported to the officer in charge of the new cadets, and explained the whole affair to him.

"You take the seat," said he, "assigned you in the guard house"—the plan of the church, with names written on the pews, was kept here, so that cadets could consult it and know where their seats were— "and if anybody wants you to change it tell them I ordered you to keep it."

The next Sabbath I took it. I was ordered to change it. I refused on the authority just given above. The sergeant then went to the commandant of cadets, who by some means got the impression that I desired to change my seat. He sent for me and emphatically ordered me to keep the seat which had by his order been assigned me. Thus the effort to change my seat, made by the third-classman through the sergeant, but claimed to have been made by me, failed. It was out of the question for it to be otherwise. If the sergeant had wanted the seat himself he would in all probability have got it, because he was my senior in class and lineal rank. But the third-classman was my junior in both, and therefore could not, by any military regulation, get possession of what I was entitled to by my superior rank. And the effort to do so must be regarded a marvellous display of stupidity, or a belief on the part of the cadet that I could be imposed upon with impunity, simply because I was alone and had shown no disposition to quarrel or demand either real or imaginary rights.

While in New York during my furlough—summer of '75 —I was introduced to one of her wealthy bankers. We conversed quite a while on various topics, and finally resumed the subject on which we began, viz., West Point. He named a cadet, whom I shall call for convenience John, and asked if I knew him. I replied in the affirmative. After asking various other questions of him, his welfare, etc., he volunteered the following bit of information:

"Oh! yes," said he, "I've known John for several years. He used to peddle newspapers around the bank here. I was agreeably surprised when I heard he had been appointed to a cadetship at West Point. The boys who come in almost every morning with their papers told me John was to sell me no more papers. His mother has scrubbed out the office here, and cleaned up daily for a number of years. John's a good fellow though, and I'm glad to know of his success."

This information was to me most startling. There certainly was nothing dishonorable in that sort of labor—nay, even there was much in it that deserved our highest praise. It was honest, humble work. But who would imagine from the pompous bearing assumed by the gentleman that he ever peddled newspapers, or that his mother earned her daily bread by scrubbing on her knees office floors? And how does this compare with the average negro?

It is not to me very pleasant to thus have another's private history revealed, but when it is done I can't help feeling myself better in one sense at least than my self-styled superiors. I certainly am not really one thing and apparently another. The distant haughtiness assumed by some of them, and the constant endeavor to avoid me, as if I were "a stick or a stone, the veriest poke of creation," had no other effect than to make me feel as if I were really so, and to discourage and dishearten me. I hardly know how I endured it all so long. If I were asked to go over it all again, even with the experience I now have, I fear I should fail. I mean of course the strain on my mind and sensitiveness would be so great I'd be unable to endure it.

There is that in every man, it has been said, either good or bad, which will manifest itself in his speech or acts. Keeping this in mind while I constantly study those around me, I find myself at times driven to most extraordinary conclusions. If some are as good as their speech, then, if I may be permitted to judge, they have most devoutly observed that blessed commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," in that they have profited by their teaching both mentally and morally.

On the other hand, we hear from many the very worst possible language. Some make pardonable errors, while others make blunders for which there can be no excuse save ignorance. Judging their character by their speech, what a sad condition must be theirs; and more, what a need for missionary work!

This state of affairs gives way in the second, and often in the first year, to instruction and discipline. West Point's greatest glory arises from her unparalleled success in polishing these rough specimens and sending them forth "officers and gentlemen." No college in the country has such a "heterogeneous conglomeration"—to quote Dr. Johnson—of classes. The highest and lowest are represented. The glory of free America, her recognition of equality of all men, is not so apparent anywhere else as at West Point. And were prejudice entirely obliterated, then would America in truth be that Utopia of which so many have but dreamed. It is rapidly giving way to better reason, and the day is not far distant when West Point will stand forth as the proud exponent of absolute social equality. Prejudice weakens, and ere long will fail completely. The advent of general education sounds its death knell. And may the day be not afar off when America shall proclaim her emancipation from the basest of all servitudes, the subservience to prejudice!

After feeling reasonably sure of success, I have often thought that my good treatment was due in a measure to a sort of apprehension on the part of the cadets that, when I should come to exercise command over them, I would use my authority to retaliate for any ill-treatment I had suffered. I have thought this the case with those especially who have been reared in the principles of prejudice, and often in none other, for "prejudices, it is well known, are the most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education. They grow there as firm as weeds among rocks."

When the time did come, and I proved by purely gentlemanly conduct that it was no harder, no more dishonorable, to be under me than under others, this reserve vanished to a very great extent. I might mention instances in which this is evident.

At practical engineering, one day, three of us were making a gabion. One was putting in the watling, another keeping it firmly down, while I was preparing it. I had had some instruction on a previous day as to how it should be made, but the two others had not. When they had put in the watling to within the proper distance of the top they began trimming off the twigs and butt ends of the withes. I happened to turn toward the gabion and observed what they were doing. In a tone of voice, and with a familiarity that surprised my own self, I exclaimed, "Oh, don't do that. Don't you see if you cut those off before sewing, the whole thing will come to pieces? Secure the ends first and then cut off the twigs."

They stopped working, listened attentively, and one of them replied, "Yes, that would be the most sensible way." I proceeded to show them how to sew the watling and to secure the ends. They were classmates. They listened to my voluntary instruction and followed it without a thought of who gave it, or any feeling of prejudice.

At foot battery drill one day I was chief of piece. After a time the instructor rested the battery. The cannoneers at my piece, instead of going off and sitting down, gathered around me and asked questions about the nomenclature of the piece and its carriage. "What is this?" "What is it for?" and many others. They were third-classmen. Certainly there was no prejudice in this. Certainly, too, it could only be due to good conduct on my part. And here is another.

Just after taps on the night of July 12th, 1876, while lying in my tent studying the stars, I happened to overhear a rather angry conversation concerning my unfortunate self.

It seems the cadet speaking had learned beforehand that he and myself would be on duty a few days hence, myself as senior and he as junior officer of the guard. His chums were teasing him on his misfortune of being under me as junior, which act caused him to enter into a violent panegyric upon me. He began by criticising my military aptitude and the manner in which I was treated by the authorities, that is, by the cadet officers, as is apparent from what follows:

"That nigger," said he, "don't keep dressed. Sometimes he's 'way head of the line. He swings his arms, and does other things not half as well as other 'devils,' and yet he's not 'skinned' for it."

What a severe comment upon the way in which the file- closers discharge their duties! Severe, indeed, it would be were it true. It is hardly reasonable, I think, to suppose the file-closers, in the face of prejudice and the probability of being "cut," would permit me to do the things mentioned with impunity, while they reported even their own classmates for them.

And here again we see the fox and sour grapes. The gentleman who so honored me with his criticism was junior to me in every branch of study we had taken up to that time except in French. I was his senior in tactics by— well, to give the number of files would be to specify him too closely and make my narrative too personal. Suffice it to say I ranked him, and I rather fancy, as I did not gain that position by favoritism, but by study and proficiency, he should not venture to criticise. But so it is all through life, at West Point as well as elsewhere. Malcontents are ever finding faults in others which they never think of discovering in themselves.

When the time came the detail was published at parade, and next day we duly marched on guard. When I appeared on the general parade in full dress, I noticed mischievous smiles on more than one face, for the majority of the corps had turned out to see me. I walked along, proudly unconscious of their presence.

Although I went through the ceremony of guard mounting without a single blunder, I was not at all at ease. I inspected the front rank, while my junior inspected the rear. I was sorely displeased to observe some of the cadets change color as they tossed up their pieces for my inspection, and that they watched me as I went through that operation. Some of them were from the South, and educated to consider themselves far superior to those of whom they once claimed the right of possession. I know it was to them most galling, and although I fully felt the responsibility and honor of commanding the guard, I frankly and candidly confess that I found no pleasure in their apparent humiliation.

I am as a matter of course opposed to prejudice, but I nevertheless hold that those who are not have just as much right to their opinions on the matter as they would have to any one of the various religious creeds. We in free America at least would not be justified in forcing them to renounce their views or beliefs on race and color any more than those on religion.

We can sometimes, by so living that those who differ from us in opinion respecting any thing can find no fault with us or our creed, influence them to a just consideration of our views, and perhaps persuade them unconsciously to adopt our way of thinking. And just so it is, I think, with prejudice. There is a certain dignity in enduring it which always evokes praise from those who indulge it, and also often discovers to them their error and its injustice.

Knowing that it would be unpleasant to my junior to have to ask my permission to do this or that, and not wishing to subject him to more mortification than was possible, I gave him all the latitude I could, telling him to use his own discretion, and that he need not ask my permission for any thing unless he chose.

This simple act, forgotten almost as soon as done, was in an exceedingly short time known to every cadet throughout the camp, and I had the indescribable pleasure, some days after, of knowing that by it I had been raised many degrees in the estimation of the corps. Nor did this knowledge remain in camp. It was spread all over the Point. The act was talked of and praised by the cadets wherever they went, and their conversations were repeated to me many times by different persons.

When on guard again I was the junior, and of course subject to the orders of the senior. He came to me voluntarily, and in almost my own words gave me exactly the same privileges I had given my junior, who was a chum of my present senior. In view of the ostracism and isolation to which I had been subjected, it was expected that I would be severe, and use my authority to retaliate. When, however, I did a more Christian act, did to others as I would have them do to me, and not as they had sometimes done, I gave cause for a similar act of good-will, which was in a degree beyond all expectation accorded me.

Indeed, while we are all prone to err, we are also very apt to do to others as they really do to us. If they treat us well, we treat them well; if badly, we treat them so also. I believe such to be in accordance with our nature, and if we do not always do so our failure is due to some influence apart from our better reason, if we do not treat them well, or our first impulse if we do. If now, on the contrary, I had been severe and unnecessarily imperious because of my power, I should in all probability have been treated likewise, and would have fallen and not have risen in the estimation of the cadets.

It has often occurred to me that the terms "prejudice of race, of color," etc., were misnomers, and for this reason. As soon as I show that I have some good qualities, do some act of kindness in spite of insult, my color is forgotten and I am well treated. Again, I have observed that colored men of character and intellectual ability have been treated as men should be by all, whether friends or enemies; that is to say, no prejudice of color or race has ever been manifested.

I have been so treated by men I knew to be—to use a political term—"vile democrats." Unfortunately a bad temper, precipitation, stubbornness, and like qualities, all due to non-education, are too often attributes of colored men and women. These characteristics lower the race in the estimation of the whites, and produce, I think, what we call prejudice. In fact I believe prejudice is due solely to non-education and its effects in one or perhaps both races.

Prejudice of—well, any word that will express these several characteristics would be better, as it would be nearer the truth.

There is, of course, a very large class of ignorant and partially cultured whites whose conceptions can find no other reason for prejudice than that of color. I doubt very much whether they are prejudiced on that account as it is. I rather think they are so because they know others are for some reason, and so cringing are they in their weakness that they follow like so many trained curs. This is the class we in the South are accustomed to call the "poor white trash," and speaking of them generally I can neglect them in this discussion of my treatment, and without material error.

In camp at night the duties of the officers of the guard are discharged part of the night by the senior and the other part by the junior officer. As soon as it was night—to revert to the subject of this article —my junior came to me and asked how I wished to divide the night tour.

"Just suit yourself. If you have any reason for wanting a particular part of the night, I shall be pleased to have you take it."

He chose the latter half of the night, and asked me to wake him at a specified time. After this he discovered a reason for taking the first half, and coming to me said:

"If it makes no difference to you I will take the first half of the night."

"As you like," was my reply.

"You 'pile in' then, and I'll wake you in time," was his reply.

Observe the familiarity in this rejoinder.

The guard was turned out and inspected by the officer of the day at about 12.20 P.M. After the inspection I retired, and was awakened between 1 and 2 P.M. by my junior, who then retired for the night.

The officer in charge turned out and inspected the guard between 2 and 3 p.m.

Several of the cadets were reported to me by the corporals for violating regulations. The reports were duly recorded in the guard report for the day. I myself reported but one cadet, and his offence was "Absence from tattoo roll-call of guard."

These reports were put in under my signature, though not at all made by me, as also was another of a very grave nature.

It seems—for I didn't know the initial circumstances of the case—that a citizen visiting at West Point asked a cadet if he could see a friend of his who was a member of the corps. The cadet at once sought out the corporal then on duty, and asked him to go to camp and turn out this friend. The corporal did not go. The cadet who requested him to do so reported the fact to the officer of the day. The latter came at once to me and directed me, as officer of the guard, to order him to go and turn out the cadet, and to see that he did it. I did as ordered. The corporal replied, "I have turned him out." As the cadet did not make his appearance the officer of the day himself went into camp, brought him out to his citizen friend, and then ordered me in positive terms to report the corporal for gross disobedience of orders. I communicated to him the corporal's reply, and received a repetition of his order. I obeyed it, entering on my guard report the following:

"—, disobedience of orders, not turning out a cadet for citizen when ordered to do so by the officer of the guard."

The commandant sent for me, and learned from me all the circumstances of the case as far as I knew them. He made similar requirements of the corporal himself.

Connected with this case is another, which, I think, should be recorded, to show how some have been disposed to act and think concerning myself. At the dinner table, and on the very day this affair above mentioned occurred, a cadet asked another if he had heard about—, mentioning the name of the cadet corporal.

"No, I haven't," he replied; "what's the matter with him?"

"Why, the officer of the day ordered him reported for disobedience of orders, and served him right too."

"What was it? Whose orders did he disobey?"

"Some cit wanted to see a cadet and asked C—if he could do so. C—asked—, who was then on duty, to go to camp and turn him out. He didn't do it, but went off and began talking with some ladies. The officer of the day directed the senior officer of the guard to order him to go. He did order him to go and— replied, "I have turned him out," and didn't go. The officer of the day then turned him out, and ordered him to be reported for disobedience of orders, and I say served him right."

"I don't see it," was the reply.

"Don' t see it? Why—'s relief was on post, and it was his duty to attend to all such calls during his tour; and besides, I think ordinary politeness would have been sufficient to make him go."

"Well, I can sympathize with him anyhow."

"Sympathize with him! How so?"

"Because he's on guard to-day." What an excellent reason! "Because he's on guard to-day," or, in other words, because I was in command of the guard.

He then went on to speak of the injustice of the report, the malice and spirit of retaliation shown in giving it, and hoped that the report would not be the cause of any punishment. And all this because the report was under my signature.

When the corporal replied to me that he had turned out the cadet, I considered it a satisfactory answer, supposing the cadet's non-appearance was due to delay in arranging his toilet. I had no intention of reporting him, and did so only in obedience to positive orders. There surely was nothing malicious or retaliatory in that; and to condemn me for discharging the first of all military duties—viz., obedience of orders—is but to prove the narrowness of the intellect and the baseness of the character which are vaunted as so far superior to those of the "negro cadet," and which condemn him and his actions for no other reason than that they are his. How could it be otherwise than that he be isolated and persecuted when such minds are concerned?

In his written explanation to the commandant the corporal admitted the charge of disobedience of orders on his part, but excused himself by saying he had delegated another cadet to discharge the duty for him. This was contrary to regulations, and still further aggravated his offence.

For an incident connected with this tour of guard duty, see chapter on "Incidents, Humor," etc.

The only case of downright malice that has come to my knowledge—and I'm sure the only one that ever occurred—is the following:

It is a custom, as old as the institution I dare say, for cadets of the first and second classes to march in the front rank, while all others take their places in the rear rank, with the exception that third-classmen may be in the front rank whenever it is necessary for the proper formation of the company to put them there. The need of such a custom is apparent. Fourth-classmen, or plebes not accustomed to marching and keeping dressed, are therefore unfit to be put in the front rank. Third- classmen have to give way to the upper classmen on account of their superior rank, and are able to march in the front rank only when put there or allowed to remain there by the file-closers. When I was a plebe, and also during my third-class year, I marched habitually in the rear rank, as stated with reason elsewhere. But when I became a second-classman, and had by class rank a right to the front rank, I took my place there.

Just about this time I distinctly heard the cadet captain of my company say to the first sergeant, or rather ask him why he did not put me in the rear rank. The first sergeant replied curtly, "Because he's a second-classman now, and I have no right to do it." This settled the question for the time, indeed for quite a while, till the incident above referred to occurred.

At a formation of the company for retreat parade in the early spring of '76, it was necessary to transfer some one from the front to the rear rank. Now instead of transferring a third- classman, the sergeant on the left of the company ordered me, a second classman, into the rear rank. I readily obeyed, because I felt sure I'd be put back after the company was formed and inspected, as had been done by him several times before. But this was not done. I turned to the sergeant and reminded him that he had not put me-back where I belonged. He at once did so without apparent hesitation or unwillingness. He, however, reported me for speaking to him about the discharge of his duties. For this offence, I submitted the following explanation:

WEST POINT, N. Y., April 11, 1876.

Offense: Speaking to sergeant about formation of company at parade.

Explanation: I would respectfully state that the above report is a mistake. I said nothing whatever about the formation of the company. I was put in the rear rank, and, contrary to custom, left there. As soon as the command " In place, rest," was given, I turned to the nearest sergeant and said, "Mr.—, can I take my place in the front rank?" He leaned to the front and looked along the line. I then said, "There are men in the front rank who are junior to me." I added, a moment after, "There is one just up there," motioning with my head the direction meant. He made the change.

Respectfully submitted,


Cadet Priv., Comp. "D," First Class.

To Lieut. Colonel—, Commanding Corps of Cadets.

This explanation was sent by the commandant to the reporting sergeant. He indorsed it in about the following words:

Respectfully returned with the following statement: It was necessary in forming the company to put Cadet Flipper in the rear rank, and as I saw no third- classman in the front rank, I left him there as stated. I reported him because I did not think he had any right to speak to me about the discharge of my duty.

"———, Cadet Sergeant Company "D."

A polite question a reflection on the manner of discharging one's duty! A queer construction indeed! Observe, he says, he saw no third-classman in the front rank. It was his duty to be sure about it, and if there was one there to transfer him to the rear, and myself to the front rank. In not doing so he neglected his duty and imposed upon me and the dignity of my class. I was therefore entirely justified in calling his attention to his neglect.

This is a little thing, but it should be borne in mind that it is nevertheless of the greatest importance. We know what effect comity or international politeness has on the relations or intercourse between nations. The most trifling acts, such as congratulations on a birth or marriage in the reigning family, are wonderfully efficacious in keeping up that feeling of amity which is so necessary to peace and continued friendship between states. To disregard these little things is considered unfriendly, and may be the cause of serious consequences.

There is a like necessity, I think, in our own case. Any affront to me which is also an affront to my class and its dignity deserves punishment or satisfaction. To demand it, then, gives my class a better opinion of me, and serves to keep that opinion in as good condition as possible.

I knew well that there were men in the corps who would readily seize any possible opportunity to report me, and I feared at the time that I might be reported for speaking to the sergeant. I was especially careful to guard against anger or roughness in my speech, and to put my demand in the politest form possible. The offence was removed. I received no demerits, and the sergeant had the pleasure or displeasure of grieving at the failure of his report.

I am sorry to know that I have been charged, by some not so well acquainted with West Point and life there as they should be to criticise, with manifesting a lack of dignity in that I allowed myself to be insulted, imposed upon, and otherwise ill-treated. There appears to them too great a difference between the treatment of former colored cadets and that of myself, and the only way they are pleased to account for this difference is to say that my good treatment was due to want of "spunk," and even to fear, as some have said. It evidently never occurred to them that my own conduct determined more than all things else the kind of treatment I would receive.

Every one not stubbornly prejudiced against West Point, and therefore not disposed to censure or criticise every thing said or done there, knows how false the charge is. And those who make it scarcely deserve my notice. I would say to them, however, that true dignity, selon nous, consists in being above the rabble and their insults, and particularly in remaining there. To stoop to retaliation is not compatible with true dignity, nor is vindictiveness manly. Again, the experiment suggested by my accusers has been abundantly tried, and proved a most ridiculous failure, while my own led to a glorious success.

I do not mean to boast or do any thing of the kind, but I would suggest to all future colored cadets to base their conduct on the aristonmetpon, the golden mean. It is by far the safer, and surely the most Christian course.

Before closing this chapter I would add with just pride that I have ever been treated by all other persons connected with the Academy not officially, as becomes one gentleman to treat another. I refer to servants, soldiers, other enlisted men, and employs. They have done for me whatever I wished, whenever I wished, and as I wished, and always kindly and willingly. They have even done things for me to the exclusion of others. This is important when it is remembered that the employs, with one exception, are white.


"'Cadet Smith has arrived in Columbia. He did not "pass."' —Phoenix

"'Alexander Bouchet, a young man of color, graduates from Yale College, holding the fifth place in the largest class graduated from that ancient institution.' —Exchange.

"These simple announcements from different papers tersely sum up the distinction between the military and civil education of this country. One is exclusive, snobbish, and narrow, the other is liberal and democratic.

"No one who has watched the course of Cadet Smith and the undemocratic, selfish, and snobbish treatment he has experienced from the martinets of West Point, men educated at the expense of the government, supported by negro taxes, as well as white, who attempt to dictate who shall receive the benefits of an education in our national charity schools—no one who has read of his court-martialings, the degradations and the petty insults inflicted upon him can help feeling that he returns home to-day, in spite of the Phoenix's sneers, a young hero who has 'passed' in grit, pluck, perseverance, and all the better qualities which go to make up true manhood, and only has been 'found' because rebel sympathizers at West Point, the fledglings of caste, and the Secretary of War, do not intend to allow, if they can prevent it, a negro to graduate at West Point or Annapolis, if he is known to be a negro.

"Any one conversant with educational matters who has examined the examinations for entrance, or the curriculum of the naval and military academies, will not for a moment believe that their requirements, not as high as those demanded for an ordinary New England high school, and by no means equal in thoroughness, quantity, or quality to that demanded for entrance at Yale, Amherst, Dartmouth, or Brown, are too high or abstruse to be compassed by negroes, some of whom have successfully stood all these, and are now pursuing their studies in the best institutions of the North.

"No fair-minded man believes that Smith, Napier and Williams, Conyers and McClellan, have had impartial treatment. The government itself has been remiss in not throwing about them the protection of its authority. Had these colored boys been students at St. Cyr, in Paris, or Woolwich, in England, under despotic France and aristocratic England, they would have been treated with that courtesy and justice of which the average white American has no idea. The South once ruled West Point, much to its detriment in loyalty, however much, by reason of sending boys more than prepared. It dominated in scholarship. It seeks to recover the lost ground, and rightly fears to meet on terms of equality in the camp the sons of fathers to whom it refused quarter in the war and butchered in cold blood at Fort Pillow. We cannot expect the sons to forget the lessons of the sires; but we have a right to demand from the general government the rooting out of all snobbery at West Point, whether it is of that kind which sends poor white boys to Coventry, because they haven't a family name or wealth, or whether it be that smallest, meanest, and shallowest of all aristocracies—the one founded upon color.

"If the government is not able to root out these unrepublican seeds in these hot-beds of disloyalty and snobbery, then let Congress shut up the useless and expensive appendages and educate its officers at the colleges of the country, where they may learn lessons in true republican equality and nationality. The remedy lies with Congress. A remonstrance at least should be heard from the colored members of Congress, who are insulted whenever a colored boy is ill-treated by the students or the officers of these institutions. So far from being discouraged by defeats, the unjust treatment meted out to these young men should redouble the efforts of others of their class to carry this new Bastile by storm. It should lead every colored Congressman to make sure that he either sends a colored applicant or a white one who has not the seeds of snobbery and caste in his soul. Smith, after four years of torture, comes home, is driven home, because, forsooth, he might attend the ball next year! He is hounded out of the Academy because he would have to be assigned to a white regiment! There are some negroes who feel that their rights in the land of their birth are superior to the prejudices of the enemies of the Union, and who dare to speak and write in behalf of these rights, as their fathers dared to fight for them a very few years ago.

"Bouchet, under civil rule, enters Yale College the best prepared student of one hundred and thirty freshmen, and all through his course is treated like a gentleman, both by the faculty and the students, men who know what justice means, and have some adequate idea of the true theory of education and gentlemanly conduct. Two freed boys, from North Carolina and South Carolina, slaves during the war, prepare at the best Northern academics, and enter, without remonstrance, Amherst and Dartmouth. What divinity, then, hedges West Point and Annapolis? What but the old rebel spirit, which seeks again to control them for use in future rebellions as it did in the past. The war developed some unwelcome truths with regard to this snobbish and disloyal spirit of our national institutions, and the exploits of some volunteer officers showed that all manhood, bravery, skill, and energy were not contained in West Point or Annapolis, or, if there, did not pertain solely to the petty cliques that aim to give tone to those academies. It is not for any officer, the creature of the government —it is not for any student, the willing ward of that government—to say who shall enter the national schools and be the recipients of my bounty. It is the duty of every member of Congress to see that the government sanctions no such spirit; and it becomes every loyal citizen who wishes to avoid the mistakes of the former war to see to it that no class be excluded, and that every boy, once admitted, shall have the strictest justice dealt out to him, a thing which, thus far, has not been done in the case of the colored cadets.

"The true remedy lies in the feelings and sympathies of the officers of these academies, in the ability and fair investigations of the board of examiners; not from such gentlemen as at present seem to rule these institutions.


This article was taken from some South Carolina paper during the summer of '74. Its tone is in accordance with the multitude of articles upon the same subject which occurred about the same time, and, like them all, or most of them, is rather farfetched. It is too broad. Its denunciations cover too much ground. They verge upon untruth.

As to Conyers and McClellan at the Naval Academy I know nothing. Of Napier I know nothing. Of Smith I prefer to say nothing. Of Williams I do express the belief that his treatment was impartial and just. He was regularly and rightly found deficient and duly dismissed. The article seems to imply that he should not have been "found" and dismissed simply because he was a negro. A very shallow reason indeed, and one "no fair-minded man" will for an instant entertain.

Of four years' life at the Academy, I spent the first with Smith, rooming with him. During the first half year Williams was also in the corps with us. The two following years I was alone. The next and last year of my course I spent with Whittaker, of South Carolina. I have thus had an opportunity to become acquainted with Smith's conduct and that of the cadets toward him. Smith had trouble under my own eyes on more than one occasion, and Whittaker* has already received blows in the face, but I have not had so much as an angry word to utter. There is a reason for all this, and had "Niger Nigrorum" been better acquainted with it he had never made the blunder he has.

*Johnson Chestnut Whittaker, of Camden, South Carolina, appointed to fill vacancy created by Smith's dismissal, after several white candidates so appointed had failed, entered the Academy in September, 1876. Shortly after entering he was struck in the face by a young man from Alabama for sneering at him, as he said, while passing by him. Whittaker immediately reported the affair to the cadet officer of the day, by whose efforts this belligerent Alabama gentleman was brought before a court- martial, tried, found guilty, and suspended for something over six months, thus being compelled to join the next class that entered the Academy.

I cannot venture more on the treatment of colored cadets generally without disregarding the fact that this is purely a narrative of my own treatment and life at West Point. To go further into that subject would involve much difference of opinion, hard feelings in certain quarters, and would cause a painful and needless controversy.



JULY 1, 1876! Only one year more; and yet how wearily the days come and go! How anxiously we watch them, how eagerly we count them, as they glimmer in the distance, and forget them as they fade! What joyous anticipation, what confident expectation, what hope animates each soul, each heart, each being of us! What encouragement to study this longing, this impatience gives us, as if it hastened the coming finale! And who felt it more than I? Who could feel it more than I? To me it was to be not only an end of study, of discipline, of obedience to the regulations of the Academy, but even an end to isolation, to tacit persecution, to melancholy, to suspense. It was to be the grand realization of my hopes, the utter, the inevitable defeat of the minions of pride, prejudice, caste. Nor would such consummation of hopes affect me only, or those around me. Nay, even I was but the point of "primitive disturbance," whence emanates as if from a focus, from a new origin, prayer, friendly and inimical, to be focused again into realization on one side and discomfiture on the other. My friends, my enemies, centre their hopes on me. I treat them, one with earnest endeavor for realization, the other with supremest indifference. They are deviated with varying anxiety on either side, and hence my joy, my gratitude, when I find, July 1, 1876, that I am a first-classman.

A first-classman! The beginning of realization, for had I not distanced all the colored cadets before me? Indeed I had, and that with the greater prospect of ultimate success gave me double cause for rejoicing.

A first-classman! "There's something prophetic in it," for behold

"The country begins to be agitated by the approaching graduation of young Flipper, the colored West Point cadet from Atlanta. If he succeeds in getting into the aristocratic circles of the official army there will be a commotion for a certainty. Flipper is destined to be famous."

Such was the nature of the many editorials which appeared about this time, summer of '76. The circumstance was unusual, unexpected, for it had been predicted that only slaughter awaited me at that very stage, because Smith had failed just there, just where I had not.

"Henry Flipper, of Atlanta, enjoys the distinction of being the only negro cadet that the government is cramming with food and knowledge at West Point. He stands forty-sixth in the third class, which includes eighty-five cadets. A correspondent of the New York Times says that, while all concede Flipper's progress, yet it is not believed that he will be allowed to graduate. No negro has passed out of the institution a graduate, and it is believed that Flipper will be eventually slaughtered in one way or another. The rule among the regulars is: No darkeys need apply."

Or this:

"Smith's dismissal leaves Henry Flipper the sole cadet of color at West Point. Flipper's pathway will not be strewn with roses, and we shall be surprised if the Radicals do not compel him, within a year, to seek refuge from a sea of troubles in his father's quiet shoe shop on Decatur Street."

Isn't it strange how some people strive to drag everything into politics! A political reason is assigned to every thing, and "every thing is politics."

The many editors who have written on the subject of the colored cadets have, with few exceptions, followed the more prejudiced and narrow-minded critics who have attributed every thing, ill- treatment, etc., to a natural aversion for the negro, and to political reasons. They seem to think it impossible for one to discharge a duty or to act with justice in any thing where a negro is concerned. Now this is unchristian as well as hasty and undeserved. As I have said elsewhere in my narrative, aside from the authorities being de facto "officers and gentlemen," and therefore morally bound to discharge faithfully every duty, they are under too great a responsibility to permit them to act as some have asserted for them, to compel me "to seek refuge from a sea of troubles," or to cause me to "be eventually slaughtered in one way or another." Who judges thus is not disposed to judge fairly, but rather as suits some pet idea of his own, to keep up prejudice and all its curses.

It would be more Christian, and therefore more just, I apprehend, to consider both sides of the question, the authorities and those under them. Other and better reasons would be found for some things which have occurred, and reasons which would not be based on falsehood, and which would not tend to perpetuate the conflict of right and prejudice. My own success will prove, I hope, not only that I had sufficient ability to graduate—which by the way none have questioned—but also that the authorities were not as some have depicted them. This latter proof is important, first, because it will remove that fear which has deterred many from seeking, and even from accepting appointments when offered, to which determent my isolation is largely due; and second, because it will add another to the already long list of evidences of the integrity of our national army.

To return to the last quotation. Immediately after the dismissal of Smith, indeed upon the very day of that event, it was rumored that I intended to resign. I learned of the rumor from various sources, only one of which I need mention.

I was on guard that day, and while off duty an officer high in rank came to me and invited me to visit him at his quarters next day. I did so, of course. His first words, after greeting, etc., were to question the truth of the rumor, and before hearing my reply, to beg me to relinquish any such intention. He was kind enough to give me much excellent advice, which I have followed most religiously. He assured me that prejudice, if it did exist among my instructors, would not prevent them from treating me justly and impartially. I am proud to testify now to the truth of his assurance. He further assured me that the officers of the Academy and of the army, and especially the older ones, desired to have me graduate, and that they would do all within the legitimate exercise of their authority to promote that end. This assurance has been made me by officers of nearly every grade in the army, from the general down, and has ever been carried out by them whenever a fit occasion presented itself.

Surely this is not discouraging. Surely, too, it is not causing me "to seek refuge from a sea of troubles." We need only go back to the article quoted from the Era, and given in Chapter III., to find an explanation for this conduct.

"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.

We go into camp at West Point on the 17th of June, '76 for ten days. During all that time I enjoy all the privileges of first-classmen. Nothing is done to make it unpleasant or in any way to discourage or dishearten me. We go to Philadelphia. We visit the Centennial, and there not only is the same kindness shown me, but I find a number of cadets accost me whenever we meet, on the avenues and streets, on the grounds and in the city. They ask questions, converse, answer questions. This occurred several times at the Southern Restaurant, as well as elsewhere. After the parade on the 4th of July, every kindness was shown me. Those cadets near me bought lemons, lemonade, etc, and shared with me, and when, on another occasion, I was the purchaser, they freely partook of my "good cheer." What conclusion shall I draw from this? That they are unfriendly or prejudiced? I fain would drop my pen and burn my manuscript if for even an instant I thought it possible. And yet how shall I explain away this bit of braggadocio in the words italicized in this article from the Philadelphia Times?

"The Color Line.—One of the first-classmen is Mr. Flipper, of Georgia, a young colored man. 'We don't have any thing to do with him off duty,' said one of the cadets yesterday. 'We don't even speak to him. Of course we have to eat with him, and drill with him, and go on guard with him, but that ends it. Outside of duty, we don't know him.' 'Is he intelligent?' 'Yes; he stands high in his class, and I see no reason to doubt that he will graduate next June. He has the negro features strongly developed, but in color he is rather light.'"

Easily enough, I think. In the first place the statement is too broad, if made by a cadet, which I very much doubt. There are some of that "we" who do know me outside of duty. And if a cadet made the statement he must have been a plebe, one unacquainted with my status in the corps, or one who, strenuously avoiding me himself, supposed all others likewise did so. The cadet was not a first-classman. There is a want of information in his last answer which could not have been shown by a first-classman.

Again, he says we "go on guard with him." Now that is untrue, as I understand it. The word "with" would imply that we were on guard in the same capacity, viz., as privates. But first-classmen do no guard duty in that capacity, and hence not being himself a first- classman he could not have been on guard"with" me. If he had said "under him," his statement would have been nearer the truth.

After a stay of ten days in Philadelphia, we return to West Point, and still the same respect is shown me. There is but little more of open recognition, if any, than before, and yet that I am respected is shown in many ways. See, for example, the latter part of chapter on "Treatment."

Again, during my first year I many times overheard myself spoken of as "the nigger," "the moke," or "the thing." Now openly, and when my presence was not known, I always hear myself mentioned as Mr. Flipper. There are a few who use both forms of address as best suits their convenience or inclination at the time. But why is it? Why not "nigger," "moke," or "thing" as formerly? Is there, can there be any other reason than that they respect me more now than then? I am most unwilling to believe there could be.

We begin our regular routine of duties, etc. We have practical military engineering, ordnance, artillery, practical astronomy in field and permanent observatories, telegraphy, and guard. We are detailed for these duties. Not the least distinction is made. Not the slightest partiality is shown. Always the same regard for my feelings, the same respect for me! See the case of gabion in the chapter on "Treatment."

At length, in my proper order, I am detailed for officer of the guard. True, the cadets expressed some wonderment, but why? Simply, and reasonably enough too, because I was the first person of color that had ever commanded a guard at the Military Academy of the United States. It is but a natural curiosity. And how am I treated? Is my authority recognized? Indeed it is. My sergeant not only volunteered to make out the guard report for me, but also offered any assistance I might want, aside from the discharge of his own duty as sergeant of the guard. Again, a number of plebes were confined in the guard tents for grossness and carelessness. I took their names, the times of their imprisonment, and obtained permission to release them. I was thanked for my trouble. Again, a cadet's father wishes to see him. He is in arrest. I get permission for him to visit his father at the guard tents. I go to his tent and tell him, and start back to my post of duty. He calls me back and thanks me. Must I call that natural aversion for the negro, or even prejudice? Perhaps it is, but I cannot so comprehend it. It may have that construction, but as long as the other is possible it is generous to accept it. And again, I am ordered to report a cadet. I do it. I am stigmatized, of course, by some of the low ones (see that case under "Treatment"); but my conduct, both in obeying the order and subsequently, is approved by the better portion of the corps. The commandant said to me: "Your duty was a plain one, and you discharged it properly. You were entirely right in reporting Mr.—." What is the conduct of this cadet himself afterwards? If different at all from what it was before, it is, in my presence at least, more cordial, more friendly, more kind. Still there is no ill-treatment, assuming of course that my own conduct is proper, and not obtrusive or overbearing. And so in a multitude of ways this fact is proved. I have noticed many things, little things perhaps they were, but still proofs, in the conduct of all the cadets which remove all doubt from my mind. And yet with all my observation and careful study of those around me, I have many times been unable to decide what was the feeling of the cadets toward me. Some have been one thing everywhere and at all times, not unkind or ungenerous, nor even unwilling to hear me and be with me, or near me, or on duty with me, or alone with me. Some again, while not avoiding me in the presence of others have nevertheless manifested their uneasy dislike of my proximity. When alone with me they are kind, and all I could wish them to be. Others have not only strenuously avoided me when with their companions, but have even at times shown a low disposition, a desire to wound my feelings or to chill me with their coldness. But alone, behold they know how to mimic gentlemen. The kind of treatment which I was to receive, and have received at the hands of the cadets, has been a matter of little moment to me. True, it has at times been galling, but its severest effects have been but temporary and have caused me no considerable trouble or inconvenience. I have rigidly overlooked it all.

The officers, on the contrary, as officers and gentlemen, have in a manner been bound to accord me precisely the Same privileges and advantages, etc., which they granted the other cadets, and they have ever done so.

I must confess my expectations in this last have been most positively unfulfilled, and I am glad of it. The various reports, rumors, and gossips have thus been proved not only false but malicious, and that proof is of considerable consequence. That they have not been unkind and disposed to ill-treat me may be readily inferred from the number of demerits I have received, and the nature of the offences for which those demerits were given. They have never taken it upon themselves to watch me and report me for trifling offences with a view of giving me a bad record in conduct, and thereby securing my dismissal, for one hundred demerits in six months means dismissal. They have ever acted impartially, and, ignoring my color, have accorded me all immunities and privileges enjoyed by other cadets, whether they were allowed by regulations or were mere acts of personal favor. Of the majority of the cadets I can speak likewise, for they too have power to spy out and report.

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.

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.

"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?

My own success answers most conclusively the first question, and changes the nature of the other. Was it, then, color or actual deficiency that caused the dismissal of all former colored cadets? I shall not venture to reply more than to say my opinion is deducible from what I have said elsewhere in my narrative.

However, my correspondent agrees with me that color is of no consequence in considering the question of equality socially. My friends, he says, gain an important point in the argument for equal rights. It will be in this wise, viz., that want of education, want of the proof of equality of intellect, is the obstacle, and not color. And the only way to get this proof is to get education, and not by "war of races." Equal rights must be a consequence of this proof, and not something existing before it. Equal rights will come in due time, civil rights bill, war of races, or any thing of that kind to the contrary not-withstanding.

And moreover, I don't want equal rights, but identical rights. The whites and blacks may have equal rights, and yet be entirely independent, or estranged from each other. The two races cannot live in the same country, under the same laws as they now do, and yet be absolutely independent of each other. There must, there should, and there will be a mutual dependence, and any thing that tends to create independence, while it is thus so manifestly impossible, can engender strife alone between them. On the other hand, whatever brings them into closer relationship, whatever increases their knowledge and appreciation of fellowship and its positive importance, must necessarily tend to remove all prejudices, and all ill-feelings, and bring the two races, and indeed the world, nearer that degree of perfection to which all things show us it is approaching. Therefore I want identical rights, for equal rights may not be sufficient.

"It is for you, Henry, more than any one I know of, to demonstrate to the world around us, in this part of it at least (the North), the equality of intellect in the races. You win by your uprightness and intelligence, and it cannot be otherwise than that you will gain respect and confidence."

Thus a lady correspondent (Miss M. E. H., Durham Centre, Ct.) encourages, thus she keeps up the desire to graduate, to demonstrate to the world "the equality of intellect in the races," that not color but the want of this proof in this semi-barbarous people is the obstacle to their being recognized as social equals. A tremendous task! Not so much to prove such an equality—for that had already been abundantly demonstrated—but rather to show the absurdity and impracticability of prejudice on account of color; or, in other words, that there is no such prejudice. It is prejudice on account of non-refinement and non-education.

As to how far and how well I have discharged that duty, my readers, and all others who may be in any manner interested in me, must judge from my narrative and my career at West Point. Assuring all that my endeavor has been to act as most becomes a gentleman, and with Christian forbearance to disregard all unfriendliness or prejudice, I leave this subject, this general rsum of my treatment at the hands of the cadets, and my own conduct, with the desire that it be criticised impartially if deemed worthy of criticism at all.

"Reporter.—Have you any more colored cadets?

"Captain H—.—Only one—Henry O. Flipper, of Georgia. He is a well-built lad, a mulatto, and is bright, intelligent, and studious.

"Reporter.—Do the cadets dislike him as much as they did Smith?

"Captain H—.—No, sir; I am told that he is more popular. I have heard of no doubt but that he will get through all right."—New York Herald, July, 1874.



THE privileges allowed cadets during an encampment are different generally for the different classes. These privileges are commonly designated by the rank of the class, such, for instance, as "first-class privileges," "third-class privileges," etc. Privileges which are common receive their designation from some characteristic in their nature or purpose. Thus we have "Saturday afternoon privileges," and "Old Guard privileges."

The cadets are encamped and are not supposed to leave their camp save by permission. This permission is granted by existing orders, or if for any reason it be temporarily denied it can be obtained by "permit" for some specified time. Such permission or privilege obtained by "permit" for a particular class is known as "class privileges," and can be enjoyed only by the class that submits and gets the permit.

"First-class privileges" permit all members of the first class to leave camp at any time between troop and retreat, except when on duty, and to take advantage of the usual "Saturday afternoon privileges," which are allowed all classes and all cadets. These privileges, however, cannot be enjoyed on the Sabbath by any except the first-class officers, without special permission.

The usual form of a permit is as follows:

WEST POINT, N. Y., November 6, 1876.

Cadet A— B— C— has permission to walk on public lands between the hours of 8 A.M. and 4 P.M.

— — —, Lieut.—Colonel First Art'y Comd'g Corps of Cadets.

— — —, Commanding Company "A."

By "Saturday afternoon privileges" is meant the right or privilege to walk on all public lands within cadet limits on Saturday afternoon. This includes also the privilege of visiting the ruins of old Fort Putnam, which is not on limits. These privileges are allowed throughout the year.

The second class being absent on furlough during the encampment, of course have no privileges. Should any member of the class be present during the encampment, he enjoys "first-class privileges," unless they are expressly denied him.

"Third-class privileges" do not differ from "first- class privileges," except in that they cannot be taken advantage of on the Sabbath by any member of the class.

The fourth class as a class have no privileges.

"Old Guard privileges" are certain privileges by which all members of the "Old Guard" are exempted from all duty on the day they march off guard until one o'clock, and are permitted to enjoy privileges similar to those of Saturday afternoon during the same time. They also have the privilege of bathing at that time.

The baths are designated as "first," "second," and "third." The officers and non-commissioned officers have the first baths, and the privates the others.

Cadets who march off guard on Sunday are restricted in the enjoyment of their privileges to exemption from duty on the Sabbath only. They may take advantage of the other privileges on the following Monday during the usual time, but are not excused from any duty. All members of the "Old Guard," to whatever class they may belong, are entitled to "Old Guard privileges."

Besides these there are other privileges which are enjoyed by comparatively few. Such are "Hop managers' privileges." "Hop managers" are persons elected by their classmates from the first and third classes for the management of the hops of the summer. To enable them to discharge the duties of their office, they are permitted to leave camp, whenever necessary, by reporting their departure and return.

Under pleasures, or rather sources of pleasure, may be enumerated hops, Germans, band practice, and those incident to other privileges, such as "spooneying," or "spooning." The hops are the chief source of enjoyment, and take place on Mondays and Fridays, sometimes also on Wednesdays, at the discretion of the Superintendent.

Germans are usually given on Saturday afternoons, and a special permit is necessary for every one. These permits are usually granted, unless there be some duty or other cause to prevent.

Two evenings of every week are devoted to band practice, Tuesday evening for practice in camp, and Thursday evening for practice in front of the Superintendent's quarters. Of course these entertainments, if I may so term them, have the effect of bringing together the young ladies and cadets usually denied the privilege of leaving camp during the evening. It is quite reasonable to assume that they enjoy themselves. On these evenings "class privileges" permit the first- and third-classmen to be absent from camp till the practice is over. Sometimes a special permit is necessary. It might be well to say here, ere I forget it, that Wednesday evening is devoted to prayer, prayer-meeting being held in the Dialectic Hall. All cadets are allowed to attend by reporting their departure and return. The meeting is under the sole management of the cadets, although they are by no means the sole participants. Other privileges, more or less limited, such as the holding of class meetings for whatever purpose, must be obtained by special permit in each case.

We have not much longer here to stay, Only a month or two, Then we'll bid farewell to cadet gray, And don the army blue. Army-blue, army blue, we'll don the army blue, We'll bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue.

To the ladies who come up in June, We'll bid a fond adieu, And hoping they will be married soon, We'll don the army blue. Army blue, army blue, we'll don the army blue, We'll bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue.

Addresses to the Graduating Class of the U. S. Military Academy, West Point, N. Y., June 14th, 1877. By PROFESSOR C. O. THOMPSON, MAJOR-GENERAL WINFIELD S. HANCOCK, HONORABLE GEORGE W. MCCRARY, Secretary of War, MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN M. SCHOFIELD, Superintendent U. S. Military Academy.

ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR C. O. THOMPSON, President of the Board of Visitors.

YOUNG GENTLEMEN OF THE GRADUATING CLASS: The courtesy of your admirable Superintendent forbids a possible breach in an ancient custom, and lays upon me, as the representative, for the moment, of the Board of Visitors, the pleasant duty of tendering to you their congratulations on the close of your academic career, and your auspicious future.

The people of this country have a heavy stake in the prosperity of this institution. They recognize it as the very fountain of their security in war, and the origin of some of their best methods of education. And upon education in colleges and common schools the pillars of the State assuredly rest.

To participants and to bystanders, this ceremony of graduation is as interesting and as exciting as if this were the first, instead of the seventy-fifth occurrence. Every such occasion is clothed with the splendor of perpetual youth. The secret of your future success lies in the impossibility of your entering into the experience of your predecessors. Every man's life begins with the rising sun. The world would soon become a frozen waste but for the inextinguishable ardor of youth, which believes success still to be possible where every attempt has failed.

That courage which avoids rashness by the restraints of knowledge, and dishonor by the fear of God, is the best hope of the world.

History is not life, but its reflection.

The great armies of modern times which have won immortal victories have been composed of young men who have turned into historic acts the strategy of experienced commanders.

To bystanders, for the same and other reasons, the occasion is profoundly interesting.

For educated men who are true to honor and to righteousness, the world anxiously waits; but an educated man who is false, the world has good reason to dread. The best thing that can be said of this Academy, with its long roll of heroes in war and in peace, is, that every year the conviction increases among the people of the United States, that its graduates are men who will maintain, at all hazards, the simple virtues of a robust manhood—like Chaucer's young Knight, courteous, lowly, and serviceable.

I welcome you, therefore, to the hardships and perils of a soldier's life in a time of peace. The noise and the necessities of war drive men in upon themselves and keep their faculties awake and alert; but the seductive influence of peace, when a soldier must spend his time in preparation for the duties of his profession rather than in their practice, this is indeed a peril to which the horrors of warfare are subordinate. It is so much easier for men to fight other men than themselves. So much easier to help govern other men than to wholly govern themselves.

But, young gentlemen, as we have listened to your examination, shared in your festivities, and enjoyed personal acquaintance with you, we strongly hope for you every thing lovely, honorable, and of good report.

You who have chosen the sword, may be helped in some trying hour of your coming lives by recalling the lesson which is concealed in a legend of English history. It is the old lesson of the advantage of knowledge over its more showy counterfeits, and guards against one of the perils of our American society.

A man losing his way on a hillside, strayed into a chamber full of enchanted knights, each lying motionless, in complete armor, with his horse standing motionless beside him. On a rock near the entrance lay a sword and a horn, and the intruder was told that he must choose between these, if he would lead the army. He chose the horn, and blew a loud blast; whereupon the knights and their horses vanished in a whirlwind, and their visitor was blown back into common air, these words sounding after him upon the wind:

"Cursed be the coward, that ever he was born, Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn."

Young gentlemen, the Board of Visitors can have no better wish for our common country than that your future will fulfil the promise of the present.


To me has been assigned the pleasant duty of welcoming into the service as commissioned officers, the Graduates of the Military Academy of to-day.

Although much time has elapsed since my graduation here, and by contact with the rugged cares of life some of the sharp edges of recollection may have become. dulled, yet I have not lived long enough to have forgotten the joy of that bright period. You only experience it to-day as I have felt it before you.

I have had some experience of life since, and it might be worth something to you were I to relate it. But youth is self-confident and impatient, and you may at present doubt the wisdom of listening to sermons which you can learn at a later day.

You each feel that you have the world in a sling, and that it would be wearisome to listen to the croakings of the past, and especially from those into whose shoes you soon expect to step. That is the rule of life. The child growing into manhood, believes that its judgment is better than the knowledge of its parents; and yet if that experience was duly considered, and its unselfish purposes believed in, many shoals would be avoided, otherwise certain to be met with in the journey of life, by the inexperienced but confident navigator.

You should not forget that there were as bright intellects, and men who possessed equal elements of greatness in past generations as in this, and that deeds have been performed in earlier times which, at best, the men of the present day can only hope to rival. Why then should we not profit by the experiences of the past; and as our lives are shot at best, instead of following the ruts of our predecessors, start on the road of life where they left off, and not continue to repeat their failures? I cannot say why, unless it proceeds from the natural buoyancy of youth, self-confidence in its ability to overcome all obstacles, and to carve out futures more dazzling than any successes of the past. In this there is a problem for you to solve. Yet I may do well by acknowledging to you, to-day, that after an active military life of no mean duration, soldiers of my length of service feel convinced that they might have learned wisdom by listening to the experience of those who preceded them. Had they been prepared to assume that experience as a fact at starting, and made departures from it, instead of disregarding it, in the idea that there was nothing worthy of note to be learned from a study of the past, it would be safe to assume that they would have made greater advances in their day.

Were I to give you my views in extenso, applicable to the occasion, I could only repeat what has been well and vigorously said here by distinguished persons in the past, in your hearing, on occasions of the graduation of older classes than your own.

You are impatient, doubtless, as I was in your time, and if you have done as my class did before you, you have already thrown your books away, and only await the moment of the conclusion of these ceremonies to don the garb of the officer or the civilian. The shell of the cadet is too contracted to contain your impatient spirits. Nevertheless, if you will listen but for a few minutes to the relation of an old soldier, I will repeat of the lessons of experience a few of those most worthy of your consideration.

There is but one comrade of my class remaining in active service to-day, and I think I might as truly have said the same ten years ago.

In the next thirty years, those of you who live will see that your numbers have become sensibly reduced, if not in similar proportion.

Some will have studied, have kept up with the times, been ready for service at the hour of their country's call, been prepared to accomplish the purposes for which their education was given to them.

Some will have sought the active life of the frontiers, and been also ready to perform their part in the hour of danger.

A few will have seized the passing honors.

It may have depended much upon opportunity among those who were well equipped for the occasion, who gained the greatest distinction; but it cannot for a moment be doubted that the roll of honor in the future of this class will never again stand as it stands to-day.

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