William Lloyd Garrison.

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of such uncommon beings would mingle with disgust ! '
Yea, that ' there is a broad and impassable line of demarca-
tion between every man who has one drop of African blood
in his veins, and every other class in the community ' ! Yea,
that ' the habits, the feelings, all the prejudices of society —
prejudices which neither refinement, nor argument, nor edu-
cation, nor RELIGION itself, can subdue — mark the people of
color, whether bond or free, as the subjects of a degradation
inevitable and incurable ' ! Yea, that ' Christianity cannot
do for them here, what it will do for them in Africa' ! Yea,
that ' this is not the fault of the colored man, nor of the
WHITE MAN, nor of Christianity ; but an ordination of
Providence, and no more to he changed than the laws of
Nature ' ! !


Again I ask, are we pagans, are we savages, are we devils ?
Search the records of heathenism, and sentiments more hos-
tile to the spirit of the gospel, or of a more black and blas-
phemous complexion than these, cannot be found. I believe
that they are libels upon the character of my countrymen,
which time will wipe off. I call upon the spirits of the just
made perfect in heaven, upon all who have experienced the
love of God in their souls here below, upon the Christian
converts in India and the islands of the sea, to sustain me in
the assertion, that there is power enough in the religion of
Jesus Christ to melt down the most stubborn prejudices, to
overthrow the highest walls of partition, to break the strong-
est caste, to improve and elevate the most degraded, to unite
in fellowship the most hostile, and to equalize and bless all
its recipients. Make me sure that there is not, and I will
give it up, now and for ever. ' In Christ Jesus, all are one :
there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor
free, there is neither male nor female.'

These sentiments were not uttered by infidels, nor by
the low and vile, but in many instances by professors of
religion and ministers of the gospel ; and in almost every
instance, by reputedly the most enlightened, patriotic and
benevolent men in the land ! Tell it not abroad ! publish it
not in the streets of Calcutta ! Even the eminent President
of Union College, (Rev. Dr. Nott,) could so far depart,
unguardedly, I hope, from Christian love and duty, as to utter
language like this in an address in behalf of the Coloniza-
tion Society : — ' With us they (the free people of color) have
been degraded by slavery, and still further degraded by the
mockery of nominal freedom.'' This charge is not true.
We have not, it is certain, treated our colored brethren
as the law of kindness and the ties of brotherhood demand ,*
but have we outdone Southern slaveholders in cruelty?
Were it true, to forge new fetters for the limbs of these


degraded beings would be an act of benevolence. But their
condition is as much superior to that of the slaves, as happi-
ness is to misery : indeed, it admits of no comparison.
Again he says : ' We have endeavored, but endeavored in
vain, to restore them cither to self-respect, or to the respect
of others.'' It is painful to contradict so worthy an individ-
ual ; but nothing is more certain than that this statement is
altogether erroneous. We have derided, we have shunned,
we have neglected them, in every possible manner. They
have had to rise, not only under the mountainous weight of
their own vice and ignorance, but also under the heavy and
constant pressure of our contempt and injustice. In despite
of us, they have done well. Again : ' It is not our fault
that we have failed ; it is not theirs.' We are wholly and
exclusively in fault. What have we done to raise them up
from the earth.? What have we not done to keep them
down ? Once more : ' It has resulted from a cause over
which neither they, nor we, can ever have control.' In
other words, they have been made with skins ' not colored
like our own,' and therefore we cannot recognise them as
fellow-countrymen, or treat them like rational beings! One
sixth of our whole population must, for ever, in this land,
remain a wretched, ignorant and degraded race ; and yet
nobody is culpable — none hut the Creator, who has made us
incapable of doing unto others as we would have them do
unto us ! Now, if this be not an impeachment of Infinite
Goodness, I cannot define it. The same sentiment is reitera-
ted by a writer in the Southern Religious Telegraph, who
says — ' The exclusion of the free black from the civil and
Hterary privileges of our country depends on another cir-
cumstance than that of character — a circumstance, which,
as it was entirely beyond his control, so it is unchangeable,
and will for ever operate. This circumstance is — he is a
black man' ! ! And the Board of Managers of the Parent


Society, in their Fifteenth Annual Report, declare that ' an
ordination of Providence ' prevents the general improve-
ment of the people of color in this land ! How is our
country dishonored, how are the requirements of the gos-
pel contemned, by this ungodly plea! Having satisfied
himself that the Creator is alone blameable for the past and
present degradation of the free blacks, Dr. Nott draws the
natural and unavoidable inference that ' here, therefore, they
must he for ever debased, for ever useless, for ever a 7iui-
sance^for ever a calamity ; ' and then gravely declares, (mark
the climax !) ' and yet they, and they only, are qualified
for colonizing Africa ' ! ' Why, then,' he asks, ' in the name
of God,^ (the abrupt appeal, in this connection, seems almost
profane,) ' should we hesitate to encourage their departure ? '

Nature, we are constantly assured, has raised up impassa-
ble barriers between the races. But Southern slavehold-
ers have clearly demonstrated, that an amalgamation with
their slaves is not only possible, but a very easy matter, and
eminently productive. It neither ends in abortion nor pro-
duces monsters. In truth, it is often so difficult in the slave
States to distinguish between the fruits of this intercourse
and the children of white parents, that witnesses are sum-
moned at court to solve the problem ! Talk of the barriers
of Nature, when the land swarms with living refutations of
the statement ! Happy indeed would it be for many a
female slave, if such a barrier could exist during the
period of her servitude, to protect her from the lust of her

In France, England, Spain, and other countries, persons
of color maintain as high a rank, and are treated as honora-
bly, as any other class of the inhabitants, in despite of the
' impassable barriers of Nature.' Yet it is proclaimed to the
world by the Colonization Society, that the American people
can never be as republican in their feelings and practices as


Frenchmen, Spaniards or Englishmen ! Nay, that religion
itself cannot subdue their malignant prejudices, nor induce
them to treat their dark-skinned brethren in accordance with
their professions of republicanism ! My countrymen ! is it
so ? Are you willing thus to be held up as tyrants and hyp-
ocrites for ever? as less magnanimous and just than the
populace of Europe ? No — no! I cannot give you up as
incorrigibly wicked, nor my countiy as sealed over to
destruction. My confidence remains like the oak — like the
Alps — unshaken, storm-proof. I am not discouraged ; lam
not distrustful. I still place an unwavering reliance upon
the omnipotence of truth. I still believe that the demands
of justice will be satisfied ; that the voice of bleeding human-
ity will melt the most obdurate heart ; and that the land will
be redeemed and regenerated by an enlightened and ener-
getic public opinion. As long as there remains among us a
single copy of the Declaration of Independence, or of the
New Testament, I will not despair of the social and political
elevation of my black countrymen. Already a rallying-cry
is heard from the East and the West, from the North and
the South ; towns and cities and states are in commotion ;
volunteers are trooping to the field ; the spirit of freedom
and the fiend of oppression are in mortal conflict, and all neu-
trality is at an end. Already the line of division is drawn;
on one side are the friends of truth and liberty, with their
banner floating high in the air, on which are inscribed, in let-
ters of light, ' Immediate Abolition ' — ' No Compromise
WITH Oppressors' — 'Equal Rights' — 'No Expatria-
tion' — 'Duty, and not Consequences' — 'Let Justice
be done, though the Heavens fall ! ' On the oppo-
site side stand the supporters and apologists of slavery, in
mighty array, with a black flag, on which are seen, in bloody
characters, ' African Colonization' — 'Gradual Aboli-
tion ' — ' Rights of Property ' — ' No Equality' — ' Expul-


siON OF THE Blacks ' — ' Protection to Tyrants ! ' Who
can doubt the issue of this controversy, or which side has
the approbation of the Lord of hosts ?

See how suddenly, by a touch of the Colonization wand,
those who, in one breath, are denounced as ' nuisances,'
can be transformed into enlightened citizens and excellent
Christians — to hide the iniquity of their expulsion !

In the month of June, 1830, I happened to peruse a num-
ber of the Southern Religious Telegraph, in which I found
an essay, enforcing the duty of clergymen to take up collec-
tions in aid of the funds of the Colonization Society, on the
then approaching Fourth of July. After an appropriate
introductory paragraph, the writer says :

*But — we have a plea hke a peace-offering to man and to God.
"We answer poor blind Africa in her complaint — that we have her
children, and that they have served on our plantations. And we
tell her, look at their returning ! We took them barbarous, though
measurably free, — untaught — rude — without science — without the
true religion — without philosophy — and strangers to the best civil
governments. And now we return them to her bosom, with the
mechanic arts, with science, with philosophy, with civilization, with
republican feelings, and above all, with the true knowledge of the
true God, and the way of salvation through the Redeemer.'

' The mechanic arts' ! With whom did they serve their
apprenticeship ? ' With philosophy ' ! In what colleges
were they taught ? It is strange that we should be so anx-
ious to get rid of these scientific men of color, these phi-
losophers, these republicans, these Christians, and that we
should shun their company as if they were afflicted with the
hydrophobia, or carried a deadly pestilence in their train !
Certainly, they must have singular notions of the Christian
religion which tolerates — or, rather, which is so perverted as
to tolerate — the oppression of God's rational creatures by its
professors ! They must feel a peculiar kind of brotherly


love for those good men, who banded together to remove
them to Africa, because they were too proud to associate
famiHarly with men of a sable complexion ! But the writer
proceeds :

* We tell her, look at the little colony on her shores. We tell
her, look to the consequences that must flow to all her borders from
religion, and science, and knowledge, and civilization, and republi-
can government ! And then we ask her — is not one ship load of emi-
grants returning with these multiplied blessings, worth more to her than
a million of her barbarous sons ? '

So ! every ship load of ignorant and helpless emigrants
is to more than compensate Africa for every million of her
children who have been kidnapped, buried in the ocean and
on the land, tortured with savage cruelty, and held in per-
petual servitude ! Truly, this is a compendious method of
balancing accounts. In the sight of God, of Africa, and of
the world, we are consequently blameless, and rather praise-
worthy, for our past transgressions. It is such sophistry as
is contained in the foregoing extract, that kindles my indig-
nation into a blaze. I abhor cant, I abhor hypocrisy ; and
if some of the advocates of the Colonization Society do not
deal largely in both, I am unable to comprehend the mean-
ing of those terms.

Instead of returning to those, whom they have so deeply
injured, with repenting and undissembling love ; instead of
seeking to conciliate and remunerate the victims of their
prejudice and oppression ; instead of resolving to break the
yoke of servitude, and let the oppressed go free ; it seems
to be the only anxiety and aim of the American people, to
outwit the vengeance of Heaven, and strengthen the bul-
warks of tyranny, by expelling the free people of color, and
effecting such a diminution of the number of slaves as shall
give the white population a triumphant and irresistible supc-


riorily ! ' Check the increase ! ' is their cry — ' let us retain
in everlasting bondage as many as we can, safely. To do
justly is not our intention ; we only mean to remove the sur-
plus of our present stock ; we think we shall be able, by
this prudent device, to oppress and rob with impunity. Our
present wailing is not for our heinous crimes, but only
because our avarice and cruelty have carried us beyond our
ability to protect ourselves : we lament, not because we hold
so large a numberjn fetters of iron, but because we cannot
safely hold more ! '

Ye crafty calculators ! ye greedy and relentless tyrants !
ye contemners of justice and mercy ! ye pale-faced usurp-
ers ! my soul spurns you with unspeakable disgust. Know
ye not that the reward of your hands shall be given you }
' Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that
write grievousness which they have prescribed ; to turn aside
the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from
the poor, that widows may be their prey, and that they may
rob the fatherless ! And what will ye do in the day of vis-
itation, and in the desolation which shall come from far ? to
whom will ye flee for help } and where will ye leave your
glory ? ' ' What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces,
and grind the face of the poor } saith the Lord God of hosts.'
' Behold, the hire of the laborers which have reaped down
your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth ; and
the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the
ear of the Lord of Sabaoth.' Repent! repent! now, in
sackcloth and ashes. Think not to succeed in your expul-
sive crusade ; you cannot hide your motives from the Great
Searcher of hearts ; and if a sinful worm of the dust, like
myself, is fired with indignation at your dastardly behavior
and mean conspiracy to evade repentance and punishment,
how must the anger of Him, whose holiness and justice are
infinite, burn against you } Is it not a fearful thing to fall


into the hands of the living God ? You may plot by day
and by night ; you may heap together the treasures of the
land, and multiply and enlarge your combinations, to extri-
cate yourselves from peril ; but you cannot succeed. Your
only alternative is, either to redress the wrongs of the
oppressed now, and humble yourselves before God, or pre-
pare for the chastisements of Heaven. I repeat it — repent-
ance or PUNISHMENT must be yours.

The Colonization Society deters a large number of mas-
ters from liberating their slaves, and hence directly perpetu-
ates the evils of slavery : it deters them for two reasons — an
unwillingness to augment the wretchedness of those who are
in servitude, by turning them loose upon the country, and a
dread of increasing the number of their enemies. It creates
and nourishes the bitterest animosity against the free blacks.
It has spread an alarm among all classes of society, in all
parts of the country ; and acting under this fearful impulse,
they begin to persecute, believing self-preservation imperi-
ously calls for this severe treatment. It is constantly thun-
dering in the ears of the slave States — ' Your free blacks
contaminate your slaves, excite their deadliest hate, and are
a source of horrid danger to yourselves ! They must be
removed, or your destruction is inevitable.' What is their
response? Precisely such as might be expected — 'We
know it; we dread the presence of this class; their influ-
ence over our slaves weakens our power, and endangers our
safety ; they must, they shall be expatriated, or be crushed
to the earth if they remain ! ' It says to the free States —
' Your colored population can never be rendered serviceable,
intelligent or loyal ; they will only, and always, serve to
increase your taxes, crowd your poor-houses and penitentia-
ries, and corrupt and impoverish society ! ' Again, what is
the natural response? — 'It is even so; they are offensive
to the eye, and a pest in community ; theirs is now, and


must inevitably be, without a reversal of the laws of nature,
the lot of vagabonds ; it were useless to attempt their intel-
lectual and moral improvement among ourselves ; and
therefore be this their alternative — either to emigrate to
Liberia, or remain for ever a despicable caste in this
country ! '

Hence the enactment of those sanguinary laws, which dis-
grace our statute books ; hence, too, the increasing dispo-
sition which is every where seen to render the situation of
the free blacks intolerable. Never was it so pitiable and
distressing — so full of peril and anxiety — so burdened with
misery, despondency and scorn; never were the prejudices
of society so virulent and implacable against them ; never
were their prospects so dark, and dreary, and hopeless ;
never was the hand of power so heavily laid upon their
limbs ; never were they so restricted in regard to locomotion
and the advantages of education, as at the present time.
Athwart their sky scarcely darts a single ray of light —
above and around them darkness reigns, and an angry tem-
pest is mustering its fearful strength, and ' thunders are
uttering their voices.' Treachery is seeking to decoy, and
violence to expel them. For all this, and more than this,
and more that is to come, the American Colonization Society
is responsible. And no better evidence is needed than this :
iheir persecution, traducement and wretchedness increase
in exact ratio with the influence, popularity and extension of
this Society ! The fact is undeniable, and it is conclu-
sive. For it is absurd to suppose, that, as the disposition
and ability of an association to alleviate misery increase,
so will the degradation and suffering of the objects of its

If the American Colonization Society were indeed actu-
ated by the purest motives and the best feelings toward the
objects of its supervision ; if it were not based upon injustice.


fraud, persecution and incorrigible prejudice ; still, if its pur-
pose be contrary to the wishes and injurious to the interests
of the free people of color, it ought not to receive the coun-
tenance of the public. Even the trees of the forest are
keenly susceptible to every touch of violence, and seem to
deprecate transplantation to a foreign soil. Even birds and
animals pine in exile from their native haunts ; their local
attachments are wonderful ; they migrate only to return
again at the earliest opportunity. Perhaps there is not a
living thing, from the hugest animal down to the minutest
animalcule, whose pleasant associations are not circumscrib-
ed, or that has not some favorite retreats. This universal
preference, this love of home, seems to be the element of
being, — a constitutional attribute given by the all-wise Crea-
tor to bind each separate tribe or community within intelli-
gent and well-defined limits : for, in its absence, order would
be banished from the world, collision between the count-
less orders of creation would be perpetual, and violence
would depopulate the world with more than pestilential

Shall it be said that beings endowed with high intellectual
powers, sustaining the most important relations, created for
social enjoyments, and made but a little lower than the
angels — shall it be said that their local attachments are less
tenacious than those of trees, and birds, and beasts, and
insects ? I know that the blacks are classed by some, who
scarcely give any evidence of their own humanity but their
shape, among the brute creation : but are they below the
brutes ? or are they more insensible to rude assaults than
forest-trees ?

' Men,' says an erratic but powerful writer — 'men are

like trees : they delight in a rude soil — they strike their

roots downward with a perpetual effort, and heave their jiroud

branches upward in perpetual strife. Are they to be rcmov-


ed ? — you must tear up the very earth with their roots, and
rock, and ore, and impurity, or they perish. They cannot
be translated with safety. Something of their home — a
little of their native soil, must cling to them forever, or they

This love of home, of neighborhood, of country, is inhe-
rent in the human breast. It accompanies the child from its
earliest reminiscence up to old age : it is written upon every
tangible and permanent object within the habitual cognizance
of the eye — upon stone, and tree, and rivulet — upon the
green hill, and the verdant plain, and the opulent valley —
upon house, and garden, and steeple-spire — upon the soil,
whether it be rough or smooth, sandy or hard, barren or

No one will understand me to maintain, that population
should never be thinned by foreign emigration ; but only
that such an emigration is unnatural. The great mass of a
neighborhood or country must necessarily be stable : only
fractions are cast off, and float away on the tide of adventure.
Individual enterprise or estrangement is one thing : the trans-
lation of an entire people to an unknown clime, another.
The former may be moved by a single impulse — by a love
of novelty, or a desire of gain, or a hope of preferment ;
he leaves no perceptible void in society. The latter can
never be expatriated but by some extraordinary calamity, or
by the application of intolerable restraints. They must first
be rendered broken-hearted or loaded with chains — hope
must not merely sicken but die — cord after cord must be sun-
dered — ere they will seek another home.

African colonization is directly and irreconcilably oppos-
ed to the wishes of our colored population, as a body. Their
desires ought to be tenderly regarded. In all my intercourse
with them, in various towns and cities, I have never seen one
of their number who was friendly to this scheme ; and I


have not been backward in canvassing their opinions on this
subject. They are as unanimously opposed to a removal to
Africa, as the Cherokees from the council-fires and graves
of their fathers. It is remarkable, too, that they are as unit-
ed in their respect and esteem for the republic of Hayti.
But this is their country — they are resolute against every
migratory plot, and willing to rely on the justice of the
nation for an ultimate restoration to all their lost rights and
privileges. What is the fact ? Through the instrumentality
of Benjamin Lundy, the distinguished and veteran cham-
pion of emancipation, a great highway has been opened to
the Haytien republic, over which our colored population may
travel toll free, and at the end of their brief journey be the
free occupants of the soil, and meet such a reception as was
never yet given to any sojourners in any country, since the
departure of Israel out of Egypt. One would think, that, with
such inducements and under such circumstances, this broad
thoroughfare would present a most animating spectacle ; that
the bustle and roar of a journeying multitude would fall upon
the ear like the strife of the ocean, or the distant thunder of
the retiring storm ; and that the song of the oppressor and
the oppressed, a song of deliverance to each, would go up to
heaven, till its echoes were seemingly the responses of
angels and justified spirits. But it is not so. Only here and
there a traveller is seen to enter upon the road — there is no
noise of preparation or departure ; but a silence, deeper than
the breathlessness of midnight, rests upon our land — not a
shout of joy is heard throughout our borders !

Whatever may be the result of this great controversy, I

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 3 of 33)