William Lloyd Garrison.

Thoughts on African colonization: or, an impartial exhibition of the doctrines, principles and purposes of the American Colonization Society. Together with the resolutions, addresses and remonstrances of the free people of color .. online

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Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonThoughts on African colonization: or, an impartial exhibition of the doctrines, principles and purposes of the American Colonization Society. Together with the resolutions, addresses and remonstrances of the free people of color .. → online text (page 1 of 29)
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Transcriber's Notes:

This eBook is based on a 1968 reprint by Arno Press, New York, of the
original edition, published in 1832 by Garrison and Knapp, Boston. The
Table of Contents has been added by the transcriber.

Inconsistent use of "Mr." and "Mr"; use of variable numbers of asterisks
as ellipses; irregular and archaic spelling other than noted below;
inconsistent capitalization (especially Christian vs. christian) and
hyphenation, are as per the original.

2 blank lines between sequential block quotes indicate a new quote; 1
blank line indicates a new paragraph in the same quote; this is similar
to the typesetting of the original.

Footnotes have been re-indexed sequentially, using letters where symbols
were used and numbers where numbers were used in the original, and
moved to the end of each section to preserve the flow of the text.

Minor punctuation errors, in particular inconsistent use of quotation
marks, have been corrected without note. The following typographical
errors have been corrected:

Part I.
P. 25 "... was held, at which King George, ..." (had "Kings").
P. 36 "... Lander, travellers in Africa, represent ..." (had "Afria").
P. 48 "... operations have been confined to ..." (had "confied").
P. 88 "... superintendence of any government ..." (had "goverment").
P. 89 "... such a measure, to point ..." (had "a a").
P. 97 "... rid ourselves of a large party ..." (had "lage").
Footnote [P] "... the authority which compels ..." (had "which which").
P. 126 "... country, of an anomalous race ..." (had "amomalous").
P. 127 "... transportation of the manumitted ..." (had "transportion").
P. 148 "... that a greater benefit may be ..." (had "may may").

Part II.
P. 72 "... a state far to the West ..." (had "far to far").
P. 72 "... calculated to impress upon ..." (had "calulated").

Table of Contents



























[Illustration: SECTION OF A SLAVE SHIP. _From Walsh's Notes of Brazil._]


I dedicate this work to my countrymen, in whose intelligence,
magnanimity and humanity I place the utmost reliance. Although they have
long suffered themselves to be swayed by a prejudice as unmanly as it is
wicked, and have departed widely from the golden rule of the gospel, in
their treatment of the people of color, to suppose that they will always
be the despisers and persecutors of this unfortunate class is, in my
opinion, to libel their character. A change in their feelings and
sentiments is already visible - a change which promises, ere long, to
redeem their character from the bloody stains which slavery has cast
upon it, and to release the prisoner from his chains. May they be
ashamed to persist in a mean and thievish course of conduct, and afraid
to quarrel with the workmanship of God! May a righteous indignation be
kindled in their breasts against a combination which is holding them up,
for the scorn and contempt of other nations, as incorrigible oppressors,
whom neither self-respect, nor the opinions of mankind, nor the fear of
God, can bring to repentance! Their duty is plain, and it may easily be
done. Slavery must be overthrown either by their own moral strength, or
by the physical strength of the slaves. Let them imitate the example of
the people of _Great Britain_, by seeking the immediate overthrow of the
horrid system. Let a National Anti-Slavery Society be immediately
organized, the object of which shall be, to quicken and consolidate the
moral influence of the nation, so that Congress and the State
Legislatures may be burdened with petitions for the removal of the
evil - to scatter tracts, like rain-drops, over the land, on the subject
of slavery - to employ active and eloquent agents to plead the cause
incessantly, and to form auxiliary societies - to encourage planters to
cultivate their lands by freemen, by offering large premiums; to promote
education and the mechanical arts among the free people of color, and to
recover their lost rights. Religious professors, of all denominations,
must bear unqualified testimony against slavery. They must not support,
they must not palliate it. No slaveholder ought to be embraced within
the pale of a christian church; consequently, the churches must be
purified 'as by fire.' Slavery in the District of Columbia is sustained
in our national capacity: it ought, therefore, to be prostrated at a
blow. The clause in the Constitution should be erased, which tolerates,
greatly to the detriment and injustice of the non-slaveholding States, a
slave representation in Congress. Why should property be represented at
the impoverished south, and not at the opulent north?

To impair the force of this exposition, the ardent advocates of the
Colonization Society will undoubtedly attempt to evade the ground of
controversy, and lead uncautious minds astray in a labyrinth of
sophistry. But the question is not, whether the climate of Africa is
salubrious, nor whether the mortality among the emigrants has been
excessive, nor whether the colony is in a prosperous condition, nor
whether the transportation of our whole colored population can be
effected in thirty years or three centuries, nor whether any slaves have
been emancipated on condition of banishment; but whether the doctrines
and principles of the Society accord with the doctrines and principles
of the gospel, whether slaveholders are the just proprietors of their
slaves, whether it is not the sacred duty of the nation to abolish the
system of slavery now, and to recognise the people of color as brethren
and countrymen who have been unjustly treated and covered with unmerited
shame. _This is the question - and the only question._

With such a mass of evidence before them, of the pernicious, cruel and
delusive character of the American Colonization Society, I leave the
patriot, the philanthropist and the christian to judge of the fitness of
the following inflated and presumptuous assertions of its
advocates: - 'The plan is of heavenly origin, against which the gates of
hell shall never prevail' - 'a circle of philanthropy, every segment of
which tells and testifies to the beneficence of the whole' - 'addressing
its claims alike to the patriot, and the christian, it being
emphatically the cause of liberty, of humanity, of religion'[A] - 'so
full of benevolence and the hallowed impulses of Heaven's own mercy,
that one might, with the propriety of truth, compare its radiant
influences to a rainbow, insufferably bright, spanning the sombre clouds
of human wrong, that have accumulated on the horizon of our country's
prosperity, and beating back, with calm and heavenly power, the
blackening storm that always threatens, in growling thunders, a heavy
retribution'[B] - 'that citizen of the United States who lifts a finger
to retard this institution, nay, that man who does not use his
persevering efforts to promote its benevolent object, fails, in our
opinion, to discharge his duty to his God and his
country'[C][1] - 'nothing but a distinct knowledge and a calm
consideration of the facts in the case, is wanting to make every man of
common intelligence, common patriotism, and common humanity, the earnest
friend of the Colonization Society'!![D]

There is one important consideration, which, owing to the contractedness
of my limits, I have omitted to enforce in this work. It is this: the
serious injury which our interests must inevitably suffer by the removal
of our colored population. Their labor is indispensably necessary and
extremely valuable. By whom shall the plantations at the south be
cultivated but by them? It is universally conceded that they can resist
the intensity of a southern sun, and endure the fatigues attendant on
the cultivation of rice, cotton, tobacco and sugar-cane, better than
white laborers: at least, their bodies are now inured to this
employment. I do not believe that any equivalent would induce the
planters to part with their services, or white laborers to occupy their
places. In the great cities, and in various parts of the southern
States, free persons of color constitute a laborious and useful class.
In a pecuniary point of view, the banishment of one-sixth of our
population, - of those whom we specially need, - would be an act of
suicide. The veriest smatterer in political economy cannot but perceive
the ruinous tendency of such a measure.


[A] African Repository.

[B] Rev. Mr Maffit's 'Plea for Africa.'

[C] Western Luminary.

[D] Christian Spectator.

[1] The clerical gentleman who presumes to utter this opinion is the
same who has also the hardihood to assert that 'many of the best
citizens of our land are holders of slaves, and hold them _in strict
accordance with the principles of humanity and justice_'!!




In attacking the system of slavery, I clearly foresaw all that has
happened to me. I knew, at the commencement, that my motives would be
impeached, my warnings ridiculed, my person persecuted, my sanity
doubted, my life jeoparded: but the clank of the prisoner's chains broke
upon my ear - it entered deeply into my soul - I looked up to Heaven for
strength to sustain me in the perilous work of emancipation - and my
resolution was taken.

In opposing the American Colonization Society, I have also counted the
cost, and as clearly foreseen the formidable opposition which will be
arrayed against me. Many of the clergy are enlisted in its support:
their influence is powerful. Men of wealth and elevated station are
among its contributors: wealth and station are almost omnipotent. The
press has been seduced into its support: the press is a potent engine.
Moreover, the Society is artfully based upon and defended by _popular
prejudice_: it takes advantage of wicked and preposterous opinions, and
hence its success. These things grieve, they cannot deter me. 'Truth is
mighty, and will prevail.' It is able to make falsehood blush, and tear
from hypocrisy its mask, and annihilate prejudice, and overthrow
persecution, and break every fetter.

I am constrained to declare, with the utmost sincerity, that I look upon
the colonization scheme as inadequate in its design, injurious in its
operation, and contrary to sound principle; and the more scrupulously I
examine its pretensions, the stronger is my conviction of its
sinfulness. Nay, were Jehovah to speak in an audible voice from his holy
habitation, I am persuaded that his language would be, 'Who hath
required this at your hands?'

It consoles me to believe that no man, who knows me personally or by
reputation, will suspect the honesty of my skepticism. If I were
politic, and intent only on my own preferment or pecuniary interest, I
should swim with the strong tide of public sentiment instead of
breasting its powerful influence. The hazard is too great, the labor too
burdensome, the remuneration too uncertain, the contest too unequal, to
induce a selfish adventurer to assail a combination so formidable.
Disinterested opposition and sincere conviction, however, are not
conclusive proofs of individual rectitude; for a man may very honestly
do mischief, and not be aware of his error. Indeed, it is in this light
I view many of the friends of African colonization. I concede to them
benevolence of purpose and expansiveness of heart; but in my opinion,
they are laboring under the same delusion as that which swayed Saul of
Tarsus - persecuting the blacks even unto a strange country, and verily
believing that they are doing God service. I blame them, nevertheless,
for taking this mighty scheme upon trust; for not perceiving and
rejecting the monstrous doctrines avowed by the master spirits in the
crusade; and for feeling so indifferent to the moral, political and
social advancement of the free people of color in this their only
legitimate home.

In the progress of this discussion I shall have occasion to use very
plain, and sometimes very severe language. This would be an unpleasant
task, did not duty imperiously demand its application. To give offence I
am loath, but more to hide or modify the truth. I shall deal with the
Society in its collective form - as one body - and not with individuals.
While I shall be necessitated to marshal individual opinions in review,
I protest, _ab origine_, against the supposition that indiscriminate
censure is intended, or that every friend of the Society cherishes
similar views. He to whom my reprehension does not apply, will not
receive it. It is obviously impossible, in attacking a numerous and
multiform combination, to exhibit private dissimilarities, or in every
instance to discriminate between the various shades of opinion. It is
sufficient that exceptions are made. My warfare is against the AMERICAN
COLONIZATION SOCIETY. If I shall identify its general, preponderating
and clearly developed traits, it must stand or fall as they shall prove
benevolent or selfish.

I bring to this momentous investigation an unbiassed mind, a lively
sense of accountability to God, and devout aspirations for the guidance
of the Holy Spirit. Unless He 'in whom there is no darkness at all,'
pours light upon my path, I shall go astray. I have taken Him at His
word: 'If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, and it shall be given
him.' Confessing my own foolishness, I have sought that knowledge which
cannot err.

I would premise, that, like many others, I formerly supposed the
Colonization Society was a praiseworthy association, although I always
doubted its efficiency. This opinion was formed for me by others, upon
whom I placed implicit confidence: it certainly was not based upon any
research or knowledge of my own, as I had not at that time perused a
single Report of the Society, nor a page in its organ, the African
Repository. My approval was the offspring of credulity and ignorance. I
am explicit on this point, because my opponents have accused me of
inconsistency - though it ought not surely to disgrace a man, that,
discovering himself to be in error, he promptly turns to the embrace of
truth. As if opinions, once formed, must be as irrevocable as the laws
of the Medes and Persians! If this were so, accountability would lose
its hold on the conscience, and the light of knowledge be blown out, and
reason degenerate into brutish instinct. Much stress has been laid upon
the fact, that, in 1828, I delivered an address in Park-street
meeting-house on the Fourth of July, on which occasion a collection was
made in behalf of the American Colonization Society. It is true - but
whereas I was then blind, now I see. My address, however, was far from
being acceptable to the friends of colonization who were present, not
only on account of my denunciation of slaveholders, but because I
inserted only a single sentence in favor of the Society. In all my
writings, I have never commended this combination in as many sentences
as I have used in making this explanation. So much for my marvellous

It is only about two years since I was induced to examine the claims of
the Colonization Society upon the patronage and confidence of the
nation. I went to this examination with a mind biassed by preconceived
opinions favorable to the Society, and rather for the purpose of
defending it against opposition than of bringing it into disrepute.
Every thing, apart from its principles, was calculated to secure my
friendship. Nothing but its revolting features could have induced me to
turn loathingly away from its embrace. I had some little reputation to
sustain; many of my friends were colonizationists; I saw that eminent
statesmen and honorable men were enlisted in the enterprise; the great
body of the clergy gave their unqualified support to it; every fourth of
July the charities of the nation were secured in its behalf; wherever I
turned my eye in the free States, I saw nothing but unanimity; wherever
my ear caught a sound, I heard nothing but excessive panegyric. No
individual had ventured to blow the trumpet of alarm, or exert his
energies to counteract the influence of the scheme. If an assailant had
occasionally appeared, he had either fired a random shot and retreated,
or found in the inefficiency of the Society the only cause for
hostility. It was at this crisis, and with such an array of motives
before me to bias my judgment, that I resolved to make a close and
candid examination of the subject.

I went, first of all, to the fountain head - to the African Repository
and the Reports of the Society. I was not long in discovering sentiments
which seemed to me as abhorrent to humanity as contrary to reason. I
perused page after page, first with perplexity, then with astonishment,
and finally with indignation. I found little else than sinful
palliations, fatal concessions, vain expectations, exaggerated
statements, unfriendly representations, glaring contradictions, naked
terrors, deceptive assurances, unrelenting prejudices, and unchristian
denunciations. I collected together the publications of auxiliary
societies, in order to discern some redeeming traits; but I found them
marred and disfigured with the same disgusting details. I courted the
acquaintance of eminent colonizationists, that I might learn how far
their private sentiments agreed with those which were so offensive in
print; and I found no dissimilarity between them. I listened to
discourses from the pulpit in favor of the Society; and the same moral
obliquities were seen in minister and people.

These discoveries affected my mind so deeply that I could not rest. I
endeavored to explain away the meaning of plain and obvious language; I
made liberal concessions for good motives and unsuspicious confidence; I
resorted to many expedients to vindicate the disinterested benevolence
of the Society; but I could not rest. The sun in its mid-day splendor
was not more clear and palpable to my vision, than the anti-christian
and anti-republican character of this association. It was evident to me
that the great mass of its supporters at the north did not realise its
dangerous tendency. They were told that it was designed to effect the
ultimate emancipation of the slaves - to improve the condition of the
free people of color - to abolish the foreign slave trade - to reclaim and
evangelize benighted Africa - and various other marvels. Anxious to do
something for the colored population - they knew not what - and having no
other plan presented to their view, they eagerly embraced a scheme which
was so big with promise, and which required of them nothing but a small
contribution annually. Perceiving the fatality of this delusion, I was
urged by an irresistible impulse to attempt its removal. I could not
turn a deaf ear to the cries of the slaves, nor throw off the
obligations which my Creator had fastened upon me. Yet in view of the
inequalities of the contest, of the obstacles which towered like
mountains in my path, and of my own littleness, I trembled, and
exclaimed in the language of Jeremiah, - 'Ah, Lord God! behold I cannot
speak: for I am a child.' But I was immediately strengthened by these
interrogations: 'Is any thing too hard for the Lord?' Is Error, though
unwittingly supported by a host of good men, stronger than Truth? Are
Right and Wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion? Oh
no! Then I will go forward in the strength of the Lord of Hosts - in the
name of Truth - and under the banner of Right. As it is not by might nor
by power, but by the Spirit of God, that great moral changes are
effected, I am encouraged to fight valiantly in this good cause,
believing that I shall 'come off conqueror, and more than
conqueror' - yet not I, but Truth and Justice. It is in such a contest
that one shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.
'The Lord disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands
cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own
craftiness; and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.'
'Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of
God is stronger than men.'

Little boldness is needed to assail the opinions and practices of
notoriously wicked men; but to rebuke great and good men for their
conduct, and to impeach their discernment, is the highest effort of
moral courage. The great mass of mankind shun the labor and
responsibility of forming opinions for themselves. The question is
not - what is true? but - what is popular? Not - what does God say?
but - what says the public? Not - what is my opinion? but - what do others
believe? If people would pin their faith upon the bible, and not upon
the sleeves of their neighbors, half of the heresies in the world would
instantly disappear. If they would use their own eyes, their own ears,
their own understandings, instead of the eyes, and ears, and
understandings of others, imbecility, credulity and folly would be as
rare as they are now common in community. But, unhappily, to borrow the
words of Ganganelli, a large majority of mankind are 'mere abortions:'
calling themselves rational and intelligent beings, they act as if they
had neither brains nor conscience, and as if there were no God, no
accountability, no heaven, no hell, no eternity.

'My minister,' says one, 'is a most worthy man. He supports this
Society: therefore it is a good institution.' 'Christians of all
denominations are enlisted in this enterprise,' says another: 'therefore
it cannot be wrong.' 'Do you think,' says a third, 'that honest, godly
men would countenance a scheme which is not really benevolent?' But it
is unwise for beings, who are accountable only to God, to reason in this
manner. All the good men upon earth cannot make persecution benevolence,
nor injustice equity; and until they become infallible, implicit
reliance upon their judgment is criminal. Ministers and christians, a
few years since, were engaged in the use and sale of ardent spirits;
_but they were all wrong_, and they now acknowledge their error. At the
present day, a large proportion of the professed disciples of the Prince
of Peace maintain the lawfulness of defensive war, and the right of the
oppressed to fight and kill for liberty; but they hold this sentiment in
direct opposition to the precepts of their Leader - 'I say unto you which
hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that
curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.' Surely 'the
time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.'

I must pause, for a moment, and count the number of those with whom I am

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonThoughts on African colonization: or, an impartial exhibition of the doctrines, principles and purposes of the American Colonization Society. Together with the resolutions, addresses and remonstrances of the free people of color .. → online text (page 1 of 29)