Mutuality and dependence

Daily Reading for September 10 • Alexander Crummell, 1898

The application of this truth to the interests and destiny of the colored race of America is manifest. We are living in this country, a part of its population, and yet, in divers respects, we are as foreign to its inhabitants as though we were living in the Sandwich Islands. It is this our natural separation from the real life of the nation, which constitutes us “a nation within a nation”: thrown very considerably upon ourselves for many of the largest interests of life, and for nearly all our social and religious advantages. . . .

It is the cooperative principle, working in trades, business, and manufacturing, which is the great lever that is lifting up the million masses in great nations, and giving those nations themselves a more masterly superiority than they have ever known, in all their past histories. No people can discard this principle, and achieve greatness. . . . It cannot be done in the confined sphere of individual, personal effort. The social principle prevails in the uprearing of a nation, as in the establishing of a family. Men must associate and combine energies in order to produce large results. In the same way that a family becomes strong, influential, and wealthy by uniting the energies of parents and children, so a people go on to honor and glory, in the proportion and extent that they combine their powers to definite and productive ends.

Two principles are implied in the remarks I have made, that is, the one of mutuality, and the other of dependence.

By mutuality I mean the reciprocal tendencies and desires which interact between large bodies of men, aiming at single and definite ends. I mean the several sentiments of sympathy, cheer, encouragement, and combination, among any special body of people; which are needed and required in distinct departments of labor. Solitude, in any matter, is alien to the human heart. We need, we call for the aid of our fellow-creatures. The beating heart of man waits for the answering heart of his brother. . . .

So, likewise, we may not pass by the other motive, i.e., the feeling of dependence. We need the skill, the energy, the achievement of our fellow-creatures. No man stands up entirely alone, self-sufficient in the entire circle of human needs.

From “The Social Principle among a People, and Its Bearing on Their Progress and Development,” a sermon preached by Alexander Crummell on Thanksgiving Day, 1875 at St. Mary’s Chapel, Washington, D.C.

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