McKinley’s Mistake

October 16, 1897


“One of the most liberal-minded journals” in Petersburg, Virginia, refers to the new appointments of black men in office and asks what is to come of the future.


The Petersburg, Va., Index-Appeal, hitherto one of the most liberal-minded journals in this state, in its issue of the 10th instant delivers quite a dissertation on what it is pleased to term “McKinley’s Mistake.”
It refers to the appointment of colored men to offices in southern states. And if not in southern communities, where they have the numerical strength, then pray where are they to be appointed?
Having debarred the citizen of color from offices in the several states, an effort is now being made to debar them from service in the national government.
We are at a loss to understand this kind of reasoning on part of the Index-Appeal. It is a vain effort to adapt the principles of the prejudiced people, instead of adapting the prejudiced people to the principles.
President McKinley is sworn to carry out the expressed provisions of the constitution and to recognize no man on account of his “race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
The same rule which applies in northern states must govern in southern ones.
There is no Negro problem at the present time. It is a question of caste. It is a question of duty on one hand, and that of race prejudice on the other. What course is left open for the Chief of Executive of a great nation?
It should not be forgotten that the historian of the future will pass upon the action of President McKinley, and that the decree of impartial critics will assign him a place in the niche of fame or the cellar of obscurity.
Pandering to prejudice and especially caste-prejudice only increases it. The yielding in one case males the demand all the more enormous and exacting in the other.
There is no hope for the growth of a dominant Republicanism in the south wither now or for twenty years to come. This is because a ring controls and the real voice of the people is not heard. The machine orders the majority and it is forth-coming in keeping with the demand.
The tempter is at the White House. He urges that the President turn down his faithful allies. He has not been able as yet to swerve him from the line of his duty. It is problematical as to what the future will bring forth.
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Brian Schrott


“McKinley’s Mistake,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed May 21, 2019,