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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we have gone far in a wrong road, it often happens that we
cannot in a moment put ourselves in the right one. One penalty
of such a sin is, that it clings to us, and cannot be shaken off
at once with all its bitter consequences by a mere
volition.' - [Speech of William Ladd, Esq.]

'The warmest friend to the abolition of slavery, while he
deplores the existence of the evil, must admit the necessity of
cautious and gradual measures to remove it. The inhabitants of
the South cannot, and ought not, suddenly to emancipate their
slaves, to remain among them free. Such a measure would be no
blessing to the slaves, but the very madness of self-destruction
to the whites. In the South, the horrid scenes that would too
certainly follow the liberation of their slaves, are present to
every imagination, to stifle the calls of justice and humanity.
A fell spirit of avarice is thus invigorated and almost
justified, by the plea of necessity.' - [First Annual Report of
the New Jersey Col. Soc.]

'The impropriety and impolicy of manumitting slaves, _in any
case_, in our country, one would suppose, must be apparent to
all. It is not a little astonishing that individuals acquainted
with the facts, and the evils brought upon society by the free
black population, should persist in declaring that duty and
humanity call upon us to give the slaves their freedom. It
really appears to me that there is entirely too much "namby
pamby sentimentality" and affected feeling exhibited respecting
the condition of slaves. Do these individuals believe that
benevolence and humanity command us to turn loose upon society a
set of persons who confessedly only serve to swell the amount of
crime, while they add nothing to the industry, to the wealth, or
the strength of the country? Because abstractedly considered,
man has no right to hold his fellow man in bondage, shall we
give up our liberty, and the peace of society, in order that
this principle may not be violated? The fact is, _the negroes
are happier when kept in bondage_. In their master they find a
willing and efficient protector, to guard them from injury and
insult, to attend to them when sick and in distress, and to
provide for their comfort and support, when old age overtakes
them. When in health, they are well fed and clothed, and by no
means, in common cases, are they hardly worked.' - [A warm
advocate of African Colonization in the Alexandria Gazette.]

'But there are other difficulties in the way of immediate
emancipation. We believe that no one, who has taken charge of an
infant, and made a cripple of him, either in his feet, his
hands, or his mind, so that when he is of mature age, he is
unable to take care of himself, has a right to turn him out of
doors, to perish or destroy himself, and call it, giving him his
liberty. After having reduced him to this condition, he is bound
to afford him the support and protection, which he has rendered

'This appears to us to be the true relation of the southern
planters to their slaves. Not that the southern planters have
generally been guilty of personal cruelty; but such has been the
general result of the system acted upon, and such the relation
growing out of it. The slaves have grown up, under the eye of
their masters, unable to take care of themselves; and their
masters, for whose comfort and convenience this has been done,
are bound to provide for them.

'Nor do we think that the exhortation, to "do right and trust
Providence," applies at all to this case; for the very question
is, "what is right?" Would it be right for the slave merchant,
in the midst of the Atlantic, to knock the manacles from his
prisoners and throw them overboard, and call this, giving them
their liberty and trusting Providence with the result? But how
else could he reduce the doctrine of immediate and complete
emancipation to practice?' - [Vermont Chronicle.]

The miserable sophistry contained in the foregoing extracts scarcely
needs a serious refutation. 'To say that immediate emancipation will
only increase the wretchedness of the slaves, and that we must pursue a
system of _gradual_ abolition, is to present to us the double paradox,
that we must continue to do evil, in order to cure the evil which we are
doing; and that we must continue to be unjust, and to do evil, that good
may come.' The fatal error of _gradualists_ lies here: They talk as if
the friends of abolition contended only for the emancipation of the
slaves, without specifying or caring what should be done with or for
them! as if the planters were invoked to cease from one kind of villany,
only to practise another! as if the manumitted slaves must necessarily
be driven out from society into the wilderness, like wild beasts! This
is talking nonsense: it is a gross perversion of reason and common
sense. Abolitionists have never said, that mere manumission would be
doing justice to the slaves: they insist upon a remuneration for years
of unrequited toil, upon their employment as free laborers, upon their
immediate and coefficient instruction, and upon the exercise of a
benevolent supervision over them on the part of their employers. They
declare, in the first place, that to break the fetters of the slaves,
and turn them loose upon the country, without the preservative
restraints of law, and destitute of occupation, would leave the work of
justice only half done; and, secondly, that it is absurd to suppose that
the planters would be wholly independent of the labor of the blacks - for
they could no more dispense with it next week, were emancipation to take
place, than they can to-day. The very ground which they assume for their
opposition to slavery, - that it necessarily prevents the improvement of
its victims, - shows that they contemplate the establishment of schools
for the education of the slaves, and the furnishing of productive
employment, immediately upon their liberation. If this were done, none
of the horrors which are now so feelingly depicted, as the attendants of
a sudden abolition, would ensue.

But we are gravely told that education must _precede_ emancipation. The
logic of this plea is, that intellectual superiority justly gives one
man an oppressive control over another! Where would such a detestable
principle lead but to practices the most atrocious, and results the most
disastrous, if carried out among ourselves? Tell us, ye hair-splitting
sophists, the exact quantum of knowledge which is necessary to
constitute a freeman. If every dunce should be a slave, your servitude
is inevitable; and richly do you deserve the lash for your obtuseness.
Our white population, too, would furnish blockheads enough to satisfy
all the classical kidnappers in the land.

The reason why the slaves are so ignorant, is because they are held in
bondage; and the reason why they are held in bondage, is because they
are so ignorant! They ought not to be freed until they are educated; and
they ought not be educated, because on the acquisition of knowledge they
would burst their fetters! Fine logic, indeed! How men, who make any
pretensions to honesty or common sense, can advance a paradox like this,
is truly inexplicable. 'I never met with a man yet,' says an able writer
in Kentucky, 'who impliedly admits the enslaving of human beings as
consistent with the exercise of christian duties, who could talk or
write ten minutes on the subject, without expressing nonsense, or
contradicting himself, or advancing heresy which would expose him to
censure on any other subject.' In this connexion, I make the following
extract from the Report of the _Dublin Negro's Friend Society_, of which
WILBERFORCE is President, and CLARKSON Vice President:

'They do not recognize the false principle, that education, as a
preparation for freedom, must precede emancipation; or that an
amelioration of the slaves' condition should be a substitute for
EMANCIPATION, as a right which is unrighteously withheld, and
the restoration of which is, in their opinion, the first and
most indispensable step to all improvement, and absolutely
essential to the application of the only remedy for that moral
debasement, in which slavery has sunk its victims.'

I cannot portray the absurdity of the doctrine of gradual abolition, and
the danger and folly of attempting to mitigate the system of slavery,
more strikingly, than by presenting the following eloquent extracts from
a speech of the Rev. Dr. Thomson of Edinburgh, one of the most learned
and able divines in Great Britain, whose sudden death was recorded in
the newspapers a few months since:

'The word _immediate_ may no doubt be considered as a strong
word; but you will observe that it is used as contrasted with
the word _gradual_. And were I to criticise the term _gradual_
as certain opponents have treated the term _immediate_, I could
easily, by the help of a little quibbling, bring you to the
conclusion, that as hitherto employed it means that the
abolition is never to take place, and that, by putting it into
their petition, they are to be understood as deprecating rather
than asking the emancipation of the slaves. "_Immediate_," they
argue, "evanishes as soon as you utter it; it is gone before
your petition reaches parliament." How absurd! If I should say
to my servant while engaged in work, "You must go to the south
side of the town with a message for me _immediately_," is it
indeed implied in the order I have given him, that he could not
fulfil it, unless he set off without his hat, without his coat,
without his shoes, without those habiliments which are requisite
for his appearing decently in the streets of Edinburgh, and
executing the task that I had assigned him? The meaning of the
word as used by us is perfectly clear, and cannot be
misapprehended by any one: it is not to be made a subject of
metaphysical animadversion: it is to be considered and
understood under the direction of common sense, and especially
as modified and expounded by those statements with which it is
associated both in our resolutions and in the petition; and
viewed in that light, _immediate abolition_ is not merely an
intelligible phrase, but one that does not warrant a particle of
the alarm which some have affected to take at it, and is not
liable to any one of those objections which some have been
pleased to make to it.

'To say that we will come out of the sin by degrees - that we
will only forsake it slowly, and step by step - that we will
pause and hesitate and look well about us before we consent to
abandon its gains and its pleasures - that we will allow another
age to pass by ere we throw off the load of iniquity that is
lying so heavy upon us, lest certain secularities should be
injuriously affected - and that we will postpone the duty of
"doing justly and loving mercy," till we have removed every
petty difficulty out of the way, and got all the conflicting
interests that are involved in the measure reconciled and
satisfied; - to say this, is to trample on the demands of moral
obligation, and to disregard the voice which speaks to as from
heaven. The path of duty is plain before us; and we have nothing
to do but to enter it at once, and to walk in it without turning
to the right hand or to the left. Our concern is not with the
result that may follow our obedience to the divine will. Our
great and primary concern is to obey that will. God reigns over
his universe in the exercise of infinite perfection: he commands
us to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke; and
submitting, without procrastination, and without any attempts at
compromise, to that command, we may be assured that he will take
care of all the effects that can be produced by compliance with
his authority, and give demonstration to the truth that
obedience to his behests is our grand and only security for a
prosperous lot.

'We are by no means indifferent to the expediency of the case.
On the contrary, we think ourselves prepared to prove, by fair
reasoning and by ascertained fact, that the expediency of the
thing is all on our side; that immediate abolition is the only
secure and proper way of attaining the object which we all
profess to have in view; that to defer the measure to a distant
period, and to admit the propriety of getting at it by a course
of mitigation, is the surest mode of frustrating every hope we
might otherwise entertain, and giving over the slaves to
interminable bondage.' * * *

'I do not deny, Sir, that the evils of practical slavery may be
lessened. By parliamentary enactments, by colonial arrangements,
by appeals to the judgment and feelings of planters, and by
various other means, a certain degree of melioration _may_ be
secured. But I say, in the first place, that, with all that you
can accomplish, or reasonably expect, of mitigation, you cannot
alter the nature of slavery itself. With every improvement you
have superinduced upon it, you have not made it less debasing,
less cruel, less destructive, in its essential character. The
black man is still the _property_ of the white man. And that one
circumstance not only implies in it the transgression of
inalienable right and everlasting justice, but is the fruitful
and necessary source of numberless mischiefs, the very thought
of which harrows up the soul, and the infliction of which no
superintendence of any government can either prevent or control.
Mitigate and keep down the evil as much as you can, still it is
there in all its native virulence, and still it will do its
malignant work in spite of you. The improvements you have made
are merely superficial. You have not reached the seat and vital
spring of the mischief. You have only concealed in some measure,
and for a time, its inherent enormity. Its essence remains
unchanged and untouched, and is ready to unfold itself whenever
a convenient season arrives, notwithstanding all your
precaution, and all you vigilance, in those manifold acts of
injustice and inhumanity, which are its genuine and its
invariable fruits. You may white-wash the sepulchre, - you may
put upon it every adornment that fancy can suggest, - you may
cover it over with all the flowers and evergreens that the
garden or the fields can furnish, so that it will appear
beautiful outwardly unto men. But it is a sepulchre still, - full
of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness. Disguise slavery as
you will, - put into the cup all the pleasing and palatable
ingredients which you can discover in the wide range of nature
and of art, - still it is a bitter, bitter draught, from which
the understanding and the heart of every man, in whom nature
works unsophisticated and unbiassed, recoils with unutterable
aversion and abhorrence. Why, Sir, slavery is the very Upas tree
of the moral world, beneath whose pestiferous shade all
intellect languishes, and all virtue dies. And if you would get
quit of the evil, you must go more thoroughly and effectually to
work than you can ever do by any or by all of those palliatives,
which are included under the term "mitigation." The foul
sepulchre must be taken away. The cup of oppression must be
dashed to pieces on the ground. The pestiferous tree must be cut
down and eradicated; it must be, root and branch of it, cast
into the consuming fire, and its ashes scattered to the four
winds of heaven. It is thus you must deal with slavery. You must
annihilate it, - annihilate it now, - and annihilate it for ever.

'Get your mitigation. I say in the second place, that you are
thereby, in all probability farther away than ever from your
object. It is not to the Government or the Parliament at home
that you are to look - neither is it to the legislatures and
planters abroad that you are to look - for accomplishing the
abolition of negro slavery. Sad experience shows that, if left
to themselves, they will do nothing efficient in this great
cause. It is to the sentiments of the people at large that you
are to look, to the spread of intellectual light, to the
prevalence of moral feeling, to the progress, in short, of
public opinion, which, when resting on right principles and
moving in a right direction, must in this free and Christian
country prove irresistible. But observe, Sir, the public mind
will not be sufficiently affected by the statement of abstract
truths, however just, or by reasonings on the tendencies of a
system, however accurate. It must be more or less influenced by
what is visible, or by what is easily known and understood of
the actual atrocities which accompany slavery, wherever it is
left to its own proper operation. Let it be seen in its native
vileness and cruelty, as exhibited when not interfered with by
the hand of authority, and it excites universal and unqualified
detestation. But let its harsher asperities be rubbed off; take
away the more prominent parts of its iniquity; see that it look
somewhat smoother and milder than it did before; make such
regulations as ought, if faithfully executed, to check its
grosser acts of injustice and oppression; give it the appearance
of its being put under the humanizing sway of religious
education and instruction; do all this, and you produce one
effect at least, - you modify the indignation of a great number
of the community; you render slavery much less obnoxious; you
enable its advocates and supporters to say in reply to your
denunciations of its wickedness, "O, the slaves are now
comfortable and happy; they do not suffer what they did; they
are protected and well treated," and in proof of all this, they
point to what are called "mitigations." But mark me, Sir; under
these mitigations, slavery still exists, ready at every
convenient season to break forth in all its countless forms of
inhumanity; meanwhile the public feeling in a great measure
subsides; and when the public feeling - such an important and
indispensable element in our attempts to procure abolition - is
allowed to subside, tell me, Sir, when, and where, and by what
means it is again to be roused into activity. I must say, for
one, that though I sympathize with my sable brethren, when I
hear of them being spared even one lash of the cart-whip; yet
when I take a more enlarged view of their condition - when I
consider the nature of that system under which they are placed,
and when I look forward to their deliverance, and the means by
which alone it is to be effected, I am tempted, and almost if
not altogether persuaded, to deprecate that insidious thing
termed "mitigation," because it directly tends to perpetuate the
mighty evil, which will by and by throw off the improvements by
which it is glossed over as quite unnatural to it, will
ultimately grow up again into all its former dreadfulness, and
continue to wither and crush beneath it, all that is excellent
and glorious in man.

'But if our rulers and legislators will undertake to emancipate
the slaves, and do it as it ought to be done, immediately, I beg
those who set themselves against such a measure, to point out
the danger, and to prove it. The _onus_ lies upon _them_. And
what evidence do they give us? Where is it to be found? In what
circumstance shall we discover it? From what principles and
probabilities shall we infer it? We must not have mere
hypothesis - mere allegations - mere fancied horrors, dressed up
in frightful language. We must have proof to substantiate, in
some good measure, their theory of rebellion, warfare, and
blood. If any such thing exists, let them produce it' * * * 'But
if you push me, and still urge the argument of insurrection and
bloodshed, for which you are far more indebted to fancy than to
fact, as I have shown you, then I say, be it so. I repeat that
maxim, taken from a heathen book, but pervading the whole Book
of God, _Fiat justitia_ - _ruat cælum_. Righteousness, Sir, is
the pillar of the universe. Break down that pillar, and the
universe falls into ruin and desolation. But preserve it, and
though the fair fabric may sustain partial dilapidations, it may
be rebuilt and repaired - it _will_ be rebuilt, and repaired, and
restored to all its pristine strength, and magnificence, and
beauty. If there must be violence, let it even come, for it will
soon pass away - let it come and rage its little hour, since it
is to be succeeded by lasting freedom, and prosperity and
happiness. Give me the hurricane rather than the pestilence.
Give me the hurricane, with its thunder, and its lightning, and
its tempest; - give me the hurricane, with its partial and
temporary devastations, awful though they be; - give me the
hurricane, with its purifying, healthful, salutary
effects; - give me that hurricane, infinitely rather than the
noisome pestilence, whose path is never crossed, whose silence
is never disturbed, whose progress is never arrested, by one
sweeping blast from the heavens; which walks peacefully and
sullenly through the length and breadth of the land, breathing
poison into every heart, and carrying havoc into every home,
enervating all that is strong, defacing all that is beautiful,
and casting its blight over the fairest and happiest scenes of
human life - and which, from day to day, and from year to year,
with intolerant and interminable malignity, sends its thousands
and its tens of thousands of hapless victims into the
ever-yawning and never-satisfied grave!'

It is said, by way of extenuation, that the present owners of slaves are
not responsible for the origin of this system. I do not arraign them for
the crimes _of their ancestors_, but for the constant perpetration and
extension of similar crimes. The plea that the evil of slavery was
entailed upon them, shall avail them nothing: in its length and breadth
it means that the robberies of one generation justify the robberies of
another! that the inheritance of stolen property converts it into an
honest acquisition! that the atrocious conduct of their fathers
exonerates them from all accountability, thus presenting the strange
anomaly of a race of men incapable of incurring guilt, though daily
practising the vilest deeds! Scarcely any one denies that blame attaches
somewhere: the present generation throws it upon the past - the past,
upon its predecessor - and thus it is cast, like a ball, from one to
another, down to the first importers of the Africans! 'Can that be
_innocence_ in the temperate zone, which is the _acme of all guilt_ near
the equator? Can that be _honesty_ in one meridian of longitude, which,
at one hundred degrees east, is the _climax of injustice_?' Sixty
thousand infants, the offspring of slave-parents, are annually born in
this country, and doomed to remediless bondage. Is it not as atrocious a
crime to kidnap these, as to kidnap a similar number on the coast of

It is said, moreover, that we ought to legislate prospectively, on this
subject; that the fetters of the present generation of slaves cannot be
broken; and that our single aim should be, to obtain the freedom of
their offspring, by fixing a definite period after which none shall be
born slaves. But this is inconsistent, inhuman and unjust. The following
extracts from the speech of the Rev. Dr. Thomson are conclusive on this

'In the first place, it amounts to an indirect sanction of the
continued slavery of all who are now alive, and of all who may
be born before the period fixed upon. This is a renunciation of
the great moral principles upon which the demand for abolition
proceeds. It consigns more than 800,000 human beings to bondage
and oppression, while their title to freedom is both

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 11 of 29)