American Colonization Society.

The ... annual report of the American Colonization Society .. (Volume 1) online

. (page 3 of 5)
Online LibraryAmerican Colonization SocietyThe ... annual report of the American Colonization Society .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I expected that immediately Liberia would become the seat of
a great nation, where science, art, commerce, and agriculture
should at once flourish; that tbither American negroes would
at once flock, as doves to their windows, thus delivering Amer-
ica from the curse of slavery ; and that thence streams of bless-
ing would at once go forth. Christianizing and civilizing the
©ntire continent of Africa. I had not then. Sir, learned to
M)pe and patiently wait — to hope and patientl}^ labor for an
earthly future, to be postponed, perchance, beyond the narrow
span of my earthly life.

^g?he days of imagination passed away, and those of skepti-
cism began. Manifestly the colony was not all that foncy
painted it. Emancipation and a sea voyage did not convert
those just delivered from slavery into cultured men and wo-
men. Disease and death were in Liberia — ignorance and poverty
and want were there, and the hatred and mui-derous attack of
nei^boring barbarous tribes. At home the opposition of ene-
mies increased; the Society failed to win the confidence of the
great mass of the colored population; the love of many friends
waxed cold; and, as the fathers died, their sons did not, in
friendship, rise up in their stead. Over the Avhole enterprise
there was the flavor of decay, and I doubted.

Reflection, however, soon wrought the conviction that my
first idea as to a glorious future, save in the matter of time,
was the correct one — that things were as they should be in
order to that future — that the evident decay was but a neces-
sary stej) in progress — that it was but another manifestation
of the great law impliedly referred to by Jesus, when, in refer-



Address of Rev. Elijah R. Craven, D. D.

ence to His own death, He declared : ^'Except a corn of wheat
fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but, if it die, it bring-
eth forth much fruit."

The law implied in that utterance is, a new life is the result
of death; or, in other words, the decay of the mass enveloping
a germ is in order to the development, the forth putting of that
germ. Illustrations of this law we have on every hand — in
every decaying seed that sends forth a plant, in every broken
ovum whence proceeds an animal. So has it been from the
beginning. The forests of the old world were overthrown
and submerged and buried, and in their graves partially dis-
organized, in order to the production of the coal which now
lights and warms and gives power to the human family. To
show the prevalence of this law in the development of all new
life, not only physical, but moral, social, national, would be
easy. This could be done, however, only in an extended dis-
course. Time forbids that it should be attempted in the few
moments allotted to me for this address, save in reference to
nations, and remarks on this point must be of the most gene-
ral character.

What is a nation? It is not, as many suppose, a mere com-
plex of individuals. It is a complex of re?a^e(i individuals. It
is an organism — a body having many members, pervaded by a
common life. The individuals who compose it, whilst they
may have great individual differences, have certain common
characteristics — physical, mental, moral — common hopes and
common aspirations. The French, the English, the American
people, each is a nation — an organism — a unity. Cast a hun-
dred thousand men, women, and children, not already bound
together by national ties, as are our western pioneers, into such
a valley as that of the Mississippi, and you have not a nation.
The mass of individuals may, indeed, contain the germ of a
nation, but they will no more be that organism whose germ
they contain, than is the seed the plant that is to proceed from
it — than is the ovum the living creature that is to come forth
from the fractured shell. In order to the development of a


Address of Rev. Elijah li. Craven, D. D.

nation, that human mass must be placed, by a designing, over-
ruling Mind, under discipline — it must be placed under special
discipline, in order to the production of some siDCcial form of
life. In the struggle that ensues the weak will perish, and
those also in whom there is no aptitude for membership in
that which is to be produced; the survivors will not only be
bound together by the experience of common suffering, but in
them, also, latent or partially latent tendencies in the direction
of the common life will be developed and educated; and in the
end, with diminished numbers indeed, and with the marks of
decay around, a nation will come forth, living and active, fitted
to take into itself and assimilate the individuals who after-
wards may be brought into connection with it.

It was thus that God dealt with Israel, amongst whom was
developed and more strongly, pei'haps, than amongst any other
people, the feeling of nationality. He cast them into Egypt,
where by the tyrannous heel of the Pharaohs and the task-
master the life-blood was crushed out from multitudes, and the
survivors were trodden together into brotherhood. And still
another process of decay was essential. The human mass, in
whom community of feeling had been begotten by community
of suffering, had been embruted by their discipline, and were
unfitted to stand alone as a nation. They must be cast into
the desert, where the barbarous crew that came out of the
land of bondage should perish; and where their children — re-
taining all of nationality that had been gained by their fathers
in Egypt, but desert born and bred, far from all oppression,
reared under and supported by the hand of their God, miracu-
lously stretched forth in their behalf — should be prepared not
only for independent existence, but to become the progenitors
of a people that, throughout the ages, should pour through the
nations, distinct and separate, like the Gulf stream through
the Ocean.

It could readily be shown, Sir, that all strong nationalties
have thus been formed. Time forbids, however, that illustra-
tions should be multiplied. Let one other sufiice. We are all


Address of Rev. Elijah R. Craven, D. D.

familial' with the early history of our own country. We re-
member how, of the one hundred that sailed in the Mayflower,
fifty died during the first winter; and how, in consequence of
the rigor of the climate, and exhausting toil and disease and
the attacks of savage enemies, year after year a large portion
of those who followed the first settlers perished. Concerning
the first colony in Virginia it has been declared, that at the
expiration of seventeen years, after the immigration of between
nine and ten thousand persons, at an expense of one hundred
and fifty thousand pounds sterling, but eighteen hundred re-
mained. Thus was it, to a greater or less extent, with all the
colonies. By fearful discipline, the weak and the inapt were
winnowed out, and the survivors were not only bound together
but had developed in them that spirit of independence, of de-
pendence on self under God, of courage, of energy, of persist-
ence, which has enabled this people to take possession of and
subdue the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But the
process was not yet complete. The separate colonies, as sep-
arate fibres, by the grinding, burning, in part destroying dis-
cipline of the Revolution, were pressed, twisted, welded together
into one nation, having one experience, one all-pervading
national life; they were transformed into one strong and vig-
orous living organism, fitted to receive into itself as food, and
to assimilate the discordant elements that have been cast in
upon it from foreign shores.

Is not this the process, as to its principles, that Jehovah has
been repeating on the shores of Africa ? Decay, it is true, has
been there; but has there not a living nation arisen from the
bosom of decay? On this point it is not necessary to enlarge,
as its truth has been already made manifest, both in the Report
to which you have listened and in the eloquent address of the
gentleman who preceded me.

That there is national life in Liberia, every observing mind
must admit; but it is still feeble; the nation itself is small. Are
things to continue as they are, or is the nation to become large,
vigorous, controlling? The aflSrmative of this question has al-


Address of Rev.. Elijah R. Craven, D. D.

ready l)cen jirgued by the Eev. Dr. Haight. Will you listen to
another argument in some respects similar, but proceeding from
a different stand-point?

Africa is one of the three great southern continents, in many
respects similar to its sisters, but in other and important re-
spects diverse. Not onlj^ is it the largest and most luxuriant of
the three, but it is peopled by a race, or complex of races, vig-
orous and fruitful, to whom the air, which to the rest of the
world is poison, is balm. The European can live and propagate
his race in Australia, and in South America, but not in Africa.
The fearful climate has been throughout long ages and in suc-
cessive generations exerting a selecting and formative influence
upon those who have emigrated to the soil. It has destroyed
those who had no aptitude for it; it has strengthened the pecu-
liarities of those who were fitted to breathe it; and so, from the
mass of humanity it has elicited and e-ducated for itself a peo-
ple. The process of life springing out of decay has there gone
on, on a most gigantic scale. This race has been redeemed by
the blood of Jesus, and has been promised to Him as a portion
of His inheritance. But how is it to be evangelized? How can
they believe unless they hear? And how can they hear with-
out a preacher? And how can they preach, when to breathe
is death ? You will admit that could some one of its nations be-
come evangelized and civilized, from which missionaries might
proceed, and which could extend a protecting hand over those
who went, forth from it, the work of further evangelization
might be performed in the ordinary mode. But how is this
initial work to be performed? Now, mark the Providence of

Almost coeval with the settlement of this country. He,
in His infinite wisdom, permitted to begin one of the greatest
atrocities of the ages — the sons and daughters of Africa were
torn from their homes, and sold into a cruel bondage. The
very woes of this transported, but still vigorous and increas-
ing race, which, like the bush in the desert, has remained un-
destroyed in the midst of flame, should lead us to suspect that


Address of Rev. Elijah R. Craven, D. D.

Jehovah designed to accomplish great things through its instru-
mentiility. Hero they become Christianized, and to a certain
degree enlightened. In process of time a portion of them ai'e
carried back to the land of their fathers, and are there devel-
oped into a Christian nation; and tlds movement is so timed
that the development is completed just before the general eman-
cipation of tlieir brethren ; and thus, at the moment it is needed,
a secure homo is offered to all who will enter it. Mark well the
points of observation. The promise of Jehovah ; the apparent
impossibility of its fulfillment; the permitted wrongof the slnve
trade; the evangelization of those enslaved; the return of a
portion of them to their fatherland, and their development ir-
to a nation., the very instrument manifestly most effective for
the fultiUment of the prophecy. Who can doubt that under the
wise and gracious government of Him who knoweth the end
from the beginning, and who causeth even the wrath of man
to praise Him, the planting of the Republic of Liberia Avas de-
signed as in order to that fulfillment? As little can I doubt it,
Sir, as I can doubt that the convulsions, the upheavings and
the depressions of the strata of the old world, the grindings of
the glacier and the iceberg of the ice period, were designed to
prepare the earth as a habitation for man. As little can I doubt
it, as I can doubt that the overthrow and the burial of the forests
of the carboniferous era were in order to the formation of that
material which now supplies the needs and ministers to the
development and the blessedness of the human family.

In Liberia I see the promise of a glorious future for the
entire African race — for those who are in this land, and for
those also who are in the land of their fathers.

I see the promise of a glorious future for those who are in
America. And here, Sir, lot me not be misunderstood. I do
not advocate foi-cible expatriation. The right of the negro
to remain in the United States, if so he choose, is as per-
fect as that of myself and my children. He is a citizen of the
Republic. No human power has the right to colonize him
against his will. I would resist to the last degree, with every


Address of Rev. Elijah R. Craven, D. D.

facult}', physical und mental, with which God has gifted me,
the removal from this land, against his consent, of the meanest
of the race. But at the same time I believe, on many consid-
erations unnecessary now to bo recapitulated, that this is not
the best home for him — that here he cannot reach his fullest
development nor fulfill his high destiny. I believe that ere
long he will see this for himself — he will perceive that in his
fatherland there are /or him more genial suns, and a more brac-
ing atmosphere, and a wider, nobler field for cultivation than
here exist. Liberia opens for him a home, a resting place, a
citadel of departure and defense for the subduing and civilizing
of the whole continent of Africa. This opinion, it is acknow-
ledged, may be erroneous. It may be that there^'is a glorious
work for the sons of Africa to accomplish here.

But be that as it may, in Liberia I see hope for Africa. It
stands, a Christian nation, on the shores of that long-afflicted
Continent. Doubtless many of the African race in this land,
moved by the Spirit of Chi-ist, will devote themselves to the
glorious work of evangelizing and civilizing their brethren.
Liberia offers to them a fulcrum for their lever. From Libe-
ria, doubtless, influences of blessing shall go forth — the broad
savannahs of Africa shall blossom with the rose of Sharon, and
from every hill-top and valle}- songs of praise unto our God
and of rejoicings shall go up. Under the influences proceed-
ing from that llepublic, Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands
unto God.

Let us not, Mr. President, despise the day of small things.
All great things are in their beginning small ; and, being small,
ai'e by the vast majority of men ignored or despised. It was
a busy day in Bristol, some two hundred and fiftj' years ago,
when a feeble band of emigrants sailed from that active mart.
The great men of the city were engaged in what they rcgai'ded
as the important business of the day. The vast majority, pei'-
chance, knew not of the expedition, and of the few who knew,
the greater number were filled with contempt. Little dreamed
they that the names of those unknown, despised emigrants


Address of Rev. John Maclean, D.D., LL.D.

should be given to immortnlitj, whilst their own should sink
into oblivion. Little di*eamed they that the frail Mayflower
was bearing from their wharves the seeds of empire.

It was my privilege, Sir, just as I was entering manhood, to
behold the extension from one of the northern windows of
yonder Capitol of the first wire of the magnetic telegraph; to
look upon the working of the first apparatus employed for the
public transmission of messages. The multitude passed by
unheeding, and of those who knew what was being done, the
vast majority despised and ridiculed. But we who looked
upon those wires, as over them flashed the first public message
ever telegraphed on earth— what hath God wrought! — beheld
the birth of an infant that already has become a giant, and is
encircling the world with its civilizing arms.

Let us not despise the day of small things. We are not
privileged to-night to witness a birth; but we are privileged
to tend^wQ are not patrons. Sir, but servitors— we are privi-
leged to tend the infant weakness of the man-child God hath
given to the world, that is to become a King, and, crowned
with empire, is to bear Christianity and civilization to a Con-



Mr. President: As preliminary to certain matters, which I
desire to submit for consideration, I shall first present two or
three propositions, the truth of which, I can safely assume,
will not be questioned by any of this audience. I shall, there-
fore, merely state them, and not attempt to argue them. They
are these :

1. That it is our duty to do all in our power to elevate our
fellow-men, of every language, color, and clime.

2. That this responsibility rests in a measure upon-euery one
who can contribute in the least degree to this result, of what-
•<ever caste or complexion he himself may be.


Address of Rev. John Maclean, D. D., LL.D.

3. That, from his superior knowledge of his true relations
to God and to man, the professed follower of Christ is under
special obligations to seek the highest welfare of the whole
human famil}^.

Now, let it be shown that the friends and patrons of this
Society can do more for the highest welfare of the human I'ace
by disbanding our organization, and by engaging in some other
enterprise, with the end just mentioned in view, and for one
I am prepared to say, Let the American Colonization Society
die; and for the good she has accomplished let her receive at
our bands an honorable burial; and let us all unite, heart and
hand, in this better method of attaining our object, viz: The
highest possible elevation of our ichole race.

But if, on the other hand, it can be shown that the faithful
prosecution of the aims of the Colonization Society will inter-
fere with no other benevolent enterj)rise, while it will be fol-
lowed by untold blessings to those whose good more espe-
cially our Society has ever sought to promote, then, I say, it is
wrong to frown upon the work, or to attempt to interfei'e with
it; and that it is incumbent upon all Christian men and Chris-
tian women to give their countenance to the aim and the
efforts of the American Colonization Society, if it be in their
power so to do.

Leaving it to others to show, if they can, that we ought to
give up the peculiar work of the Colonization Society, I shall
endeavor to make it appear:

1. That this Society does not interfere with the prosecution
of any other benevolent entei'priso in behalf of the colored
race in this country.

2. That it is a valuable auxiliary to other Christian and
benevolent associations; and that its power for good will be
just in proportion to its success in the prosecution of its phi-
lanthropic work.

3. That the work of the Colonization Society is one in which
all classes of people ought to take a lively interest.

'Much of the opposition to the Colonization Society, on the


Address of Rev. John Maclean, D.D., LL.D.

part of the colored people in the United States, has doubtless
arisen from the impression that the friends and sup]>oi'ters of
this Society were hostile to any and all efforts made to place
them upon an equality with the whites; and that this is the
reason why the Society is still assiduously endeavoring to
strengthen the Eepublic of Liberia, and to render it attractive
to the colored race in tiiis country.

It is true, that the Society is desirous to send additional
emigrants to Liberia, and to make that countr}' more and more
attractive to the ]ieople of color in the United States ; not, how-
ever, for the reason suggested, but for others, of which I may
have occasion to speak; and among these is our full conviction
that Africa is to furnish the arena whereon the pcojile of color
are to achieve their highest triumphs in all the arts and refine-
ment of civilized and Christian life; and where they will enjoy,
without any drawback, all the blessings of a free government.
Here in the United States they may enjoy, indeed, all the
rights and immunities which the laws can give them; but, rea-
sonable or unreasonable, it must be many, many years, if ever,
that the mass of the colored people in this country can rise to
an equality with the whites in social life.

The state of sentiment on this subject among the whites,
and more especially in the laboring classes, the American Col-
onization Society had nothing to do with creating or fostering;
but, knowing its existence, the friends of Colonization sought
to find a compensation, partial it may seem to many, never-
theless a real one, for this lack of social equality. So far from
bein<j" hostile to any attempt to elevate the colored race here
at home, the friends of Colonization are ready to bid "God
speed" to every judicious measure for the education and eleva-
tion of the entire bod}'- of the colored people. They hope that
the efforts made to this end will be greatly increased. It is
of the highest importance to the interests of all concerned that
all the colored people of this country should be educated, and
well educated; and no pains or expense should be spared in
our efforts to reach this result. This is an undertaking in evei-y


Address of Rev. John Maclean, D. D., LL.D.

view of it praiseworthy; and, although the wisdom and policy
of the const! LiUional changes, which removed from the people
of color all political disabilities, have been questioned b}' many
of the wisest and best men in the nation; yet I apprehend that
no wise man, seeing these people have been admitted to all
the i-ights and privileges of citizenship, can hesitate to say
that they should be thoroughly enlightened, both as to their
duties and their privileges. But this cannot be done, unless
they ai"e as generally educated as the whites.

It was the highest good of the freedmen of former daj's that
the founders and other early friends of the Colonization Soci-
ety sought to advance, and it is the belief of the present friends
and patrons of this Institution that in seeking to strengthen
the Liberian Government, and to make it a still greater power
for good than it now is, we are contributing our share to the
elevation of the colored race, both at home and abroad.

Can any one fail to see that the existence on the Western
Coast of Africa, or elsewhere, of a powerful Republic, composed
exclusively of people of color, educated and refined, and in the
enjoj-ment of all social, political, and religious privileges which
we of this land possess, must exert a mighty influence in favor
of their brethren who remain here?

There is no antagonism, then, in the respective aims of the
American Colonization Society and of those philanthropists
who would have the entire body of the freedmen in the United
States to abide here in the land of their birth. It is only as
to the best mode of attaining the end they differ, the one class
deeming it best that all should remain, the other believing
that higher and nobler results will be reached by a part, and,
of necessity, a very small part, of them going to Liberia. For,
at best, it is only a very small fraction of the entire number
that the American Colonization Societj', with her limited re-
sources, can send to this land of true freedom.

Could our Society, in an}'- one year, send as many as a f/iOM-
sand, this, estimating the whole colored population at four mil-
lions, v/ould be but one emigrant for every four thousand per-


Address of Rev. John Maclean, D.D., LL.D.

sons, or the one foai'-thousandth part of the entire number.
And for the years that follow, the annual increase of this class
of our citizens may be estimated at hundreds of thousands, while
the number of emigrants sent to Liberia by this Society would
seldom, if ever, exceed a single thousand in any one year. Yet
this addition to the emigrant population now in Liberia would
be of the highest importance to the full development of the
resources of that land, and to the strengthening of its govern-
ment, and it would scarcely be missed here, if at all.

Seeing the whites of this country cannot live and labor in
that tropical yet fruitful region, and our colored people can,
and also thrive, is it asking too much of the colored race here

1 3 5

Online LibraryAmerican Colonization SocietyThe ... annual report of the American Colonization Society .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 5)