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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indisputable and acknowledged. And it is not merely an
inconsistency on the part of the petitioners, and a violation of
the duty which they owe to such a multitude of their fellow-men,
but it weakens or surrenders the great argument by which they
enforce their application for the extinction of colonial

'Besides, it is vain to expect that the planters will acquiesce
in such a prospective measure, any more than in the liberation
of the existing slaves, for the progeny of the existing slaves
must be considered by them as much a part of their property as
these slaves themselves. And they would regard it equally unjust
to deprive them of what is hereafter to be produced from their
own slave stock, as it would be to deprive a farmer, by an
anticipating law of all the foals and of all the calves that
might be produced in his stable and in his cow-house, after a
given specified date.

'We must be true to our own maxims, which are taken from the
word of God; and ask for all that we are entitled to have on the
ground of justice and humanity, and be contented with nothing

'In the second place, the plan objected to is not merely an
acquiescence in the continuance of crime, it is a violation of
the best feelings of our nature. For, let any man but reflect on
the circumstance of children being born to slavery, merely
because they came into the world the last hour of December 1830,
instead of the first hour of January 1, 1831 - and of children in
the same family, brothers and sisters - some of them destined to
bondage for life, and others gifted with freedom, for no other
reason than that the former were born before, and the latter
after, a particular day of a particular year - and of parents
being unjustly and inhumanly flogged in the very sight of their
offspring arbitrarily made free, while they are as arbitrarily
kept slaves - let any man but reflect on those things, and unless
the sensibilities of his heart be paralysed even to deadness, he
must surely revolt at such a cruel and cold blooded allotment in
the fortune of those little ones, and be satisfied with nothing
short of the emancipation of the whole community, without a
single exception.

'In the third place, supposing all children born after January
1, 1831, were declared free, how are they to be educated? That
they may be prepared for the enjoyment of that liberty with
which you have invested them, they must undergo a particular and
appropriate training. So say the _gradualists_. Very well; under
whom are they to get this training? Are they to be separated
from their parents? Is that dearest of natural ties to be broken
asunder? Is this necessary for your plan? And are not you thus
endeavoring to cure one species of wickedness by the
instrumentality of another? But if they are to be left with
their parents and brought up under their care, then either they
will be imbued with the faults and degeneracies that are
characteristic of slavery, and consequently be as unfit for
freedom as those who have not been disenthralled: or they will
be well nurtured and well instructed by their parents, and this
implies a confession that their parents themselves are
sufficiently prepared for liberty, and that there is no good
reason for withholding from them, the boon that is bestowed upon
their children.

'Whatever view, in short, we take of the question, the
prospective plan is full of difficulty or contradictions, and we
are made more sensible than ever that there is nothing left for
us, but to take the consistent, honest, uncompromising course of
demanding the abolition of slavery with respect to the present,
as well as to every future generation of the negroes in our

We are told that 'it is not right that men should be free, when their
freedom will prove injurious to themselves and others.' This has been
the plea of tyrants in all ages. If the immediate emancipation of the
slaves would prove a curse, it follows that slavery is a blessing; and
that it cannot be unjust, but benevolent, to defraud the laborer of his
hire, to rank him as a beast, and to deprive him of his liberty. But
this, every one must see, is at war with common sense, and avowedly
doing evil that good may come. This plea must mean, either that a state
of slavery is more favorable to the growth of virtue and the
dispensation of knowledge than a state of freedom - (a glaring
absurdity) - or that an immediate compliance with the demands of justice
would be most unjust - (a gross contradiction.)

It is boldly asserted by some colonizationists, that '_the negroes are
happier when kept in bondage_,' and that 'the condition of the great
mass of emancipated Africans is one in comparison with which the
condition of the slaves is _enviable_.' What is the inference? Why,
either that slavery is not oppression - (another paradox) - or that real
benevolence demands the return of the free people of color to their
former state of servitude. Every kidnapper, therefore, is a true
philanthropist! Our legislature should immediately offer a bounty for
the body of every free colored person! The colored population of
Massachusetts, at $200 for each man, woman and child, would bring at
least _one million three hundred thousand dollars_. This sum would
seasonably replenish our exhausted treasury. The whole free colored
population of the United States, at the same price, (which is a low
estimate,) would be worth _sixty-five millions of dollars_!! Think how
many churches this would build, schools and colleges establish,
beneficiaries educate, missionaries support, bibles and tracts
circulate, railroads and canals complete, &c. &c. &c.!!!

The Secretary of the Colonization Society assures us, (vide the African
Repository, vol. v. p. 330,) that '_were the very spirit of angelic
charity to pervade and fill the hearts of all the slaveholders in our
land, it would by no means require that all the slaves should be
instantaneously liberated_'!! - i. e. should the slaveholders become
instantaneously metamorphosed into angels, they would still hold the
rational creatures of God as their _property_, and yet commit no sin!
Think, for one moment, of an angel in the capacity of a
man-stealer - feeding his victims upon a peck of corn per week, or three
bushels of corn and a few herrings every 'quarter-day,' as a
compensation for their severe labor - flourishing a cowskin over their
heads, and applying it frequently to their naked bodies! Think of him
selling parents from children, and children from parents, at private
sale or public auction!

Many slaveholders are giving up their slaves from conscientious motives;
they cannot, they dare not longer keep them in servitude; they believe
that the law of God has a higher claim upon their obedience than the
laws of their native State. Now suppose all the owners of slaves in our
land should be suddenly and simultaneously convicted of sin, and moved
to repentance in a similar manner, and should say to their slaves, 'God
forbid that we should longer call you our property, or place you on a
level with our cattle, or defraud you of your just dues, or sell you or
your wives or children to others, or deny you the means of instruction,
or lacerate your bodies! henceforth you are free - but you want
employment, and we need laborers - go and work as freemen, and be paid as
freemen!' - suppose, I say, a case like this should happen, and a troop
of _gradualists_ should surround these penitent oppressors, and cry,
'Were the very spirit of angelic charity to pervade and fill your
hearts, it would by no means require that all your slaves should be
instantaneously liberated - your throats will be cut, your houses
pillaged, and desolation will stalk through the land, if you carry your
mad purpose into effect - emancipate by a slow, imperceptible
process!' - how would this advice sound? What should be their reply?
Clearly this: 'Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto
men more than unto God, judge ye.' Here would be presented a strange
spectacle indeed - one party confessing and resolving to forsake their
sins, and another urging them to disregard the admonitions of
conscience, and to leave off sinning by degrees! To be sure, a few, a
very few, would be _generously_ allowed to reform _instanter_!

Those who prophesy evil, and only evil, concerning immediate abolition,
absolutely disregard the nature and constitution of man, as also his
inalienable rights, and annihilate or reverse the causes and effects of
human action. They are continually fearful lest the slaves, in
consequence of their grievous wrongs and intolerable sufferings, should
attempt to gain their freedom by revolution; and yet they affect to be
equally fearful lest a general emancipation should produce the same
disastrous consequences. How absurd! They _know_ that oppression must
cause rebellion; and yet they pretend that a removal of the cause will
produce a bloody effect! This is to suppose an effect without a cause,
and, of course, is a contradiction in terms. Bestow upon the slaves
personal freedom, and all motives for insurrection are destroyed. Treat
them like rational beings, and you may surely expect rational treatment
in return: treat them like beasts, and they will behave in a beastly

Besides, precedent and experience make the ground of abolitionists
invulnerable. In no single instance where their principles have been
adopted, has the result been disastrous or violent, but beneficial and
peaceful even beyond their most sanguine expectations. The immediate
abolition of slavery in Mexico, in Colombia, and in St. Domingo,[O] was
eminently preservative and useful in its effects. The manumitted slaves
(numbering more than two thousand,) who were settled in Nova Scotia, at
the close of our revolutionary war, by the British government, 'led a
harmless life,' says Clarkson, 'and gained the character of an
industrious and honest people from their white neighbors.' A large
number who were located at Trinidad, as free laborers, at the close of
our last war, 'are now,' according to the same authority, 'earning their
own livelihood, and with so much industry and good conduct, that the
calumnies originally spread against them have entirely died away.'
According to the Anti-Slavery Reporter for January, 1832, three thousand
prize negroes at the Cape of Good Hope had received their freedom - four
hundred in one day; 'but not the least difficulty or disorder occurred:
servants found masters, masters hired servants - all gained homes, and at
night scarcely an idler was to be seen.'

These and many other similar facts show conclusively the safety of
immediate abolition. Gradualists can present, in abatement of them,
nothing but groundless apprehensions and criminal distrust. The argument
is irresistible.


[N] The slaves, they say, are their _property_. Once admit this, and all
your arguments for interference are vain, and all your plans for
amelioration are fruitless. The whole question may be said to hang upon
this point. If the slaves are not property, then slavery is at an end.
The slaveholders see this most clearly; they see that while you allow
these slaves to be their _property_, you act inconsistently and
oppressively in intermeddling, as you propose to do, with what is theirs
as much as any other of their goods and chattels: you must proceed,
therefore, in your measures for amelioration, as you call it, with
'hesitating steps and slow;' and there is nothing you can do for
restraining punishment, for regulating labor, for enforcing manumission,
for introducing education and Christianity, which will not be met with
the remonstrance, undeniably just by your own concessions, that you are
encroaching on the sacred rights of property, - the slaveholders see all
this, and they can employ it to paralyse and defeat all your efforts to
get at emancipation, and to prepare for it. It is on this account, that
I wish it settled in your minds, as a fixed and immutable principle,
that there is and can be no property of man in man. Adopt this
principle, and give it that ascendency over your minds to which it is
entitled; - and slavery is swept away. - _Speech of Rev. Dr Thomson of

[O] The history of the Revolution in St Domingo is not generally
understood in this country. The result of the instantaneous emancipation
of the slaves, in that island, by an act of the Conventional Assembly of
France in the month of February, 1794, settles the controversy between
the _immediatists_ and _gradualists_. 'After this public act of
emancipation,' says Colonel Malenfant, who was resident in the island at
the time, 'the negroes _remained quiet_ both in the South and in the
West, and _they continued to work upon all the plantations_.' 'Upon
those estates which were abandoned, _they continued their labors_, where
there were any, even inferior agents, to guide them; and on those
estates, where no white men were left to direct them, they betook
themselves to the planting of provisions; but upon _all the plantations_
where the whites resided, the blacks _continued to labor as quietly as
before_.' 'On the Plantation Gourad, consisting of more than four
hundred and fifty laborers, _not a single negro refused to work_; and
yet this plantation was thought to be under the worst discipline and the
slaves the most idle of any in the plain.' General Lacroix, who
published his 'Memoirs for a History of St Domingo,' at Paris, in 1819,
uses these remarkable words: 'The colony marched, _as by enchantment_,
towards its ancient splendor; _cultivation prospered_; every day
produced perceptible proofs of its progress. The city of the Cape and
the plantations of the North rose up again visibly to the eye.' General
Vincent, who was a general of a brigade of artillery in St Domingo, and
a proprietor of estates in that island, at the same period, declared to
the Directory of France, that 'every thing was _going on well in St
Domingo_. The proprietors were in peaceable possession of their estates;
cultivation was making rapid progress; _the blacks were industrious, and
beyond example happy_.' So much for the horrible concomitants of a
general emancipation! So much for the predicted indolence of the
liberated slaves! Let confusion of face cover all abolition alarmists in
view of these historical facts! This peaceful and prosperous state of
affairs continued from 1794, to the invasion of the island by Leclerc in
1802. The attempt of Bonaparte to reduce the island to its original
servitude was the sole cause of that sanguinary conflict which ended in
the total extirpation of the French from its soil. - [Vide Clarkson's
'Thoughts on the Necessity of Improving the Condition of the Slaves in
the British Colonies,' &c.]



The reader will find on the fifth page of my introductory remarks, the
phrase 'naked terrors;' by which I mean, that, throughout all the
speeches, addresses and reports in behalf of the Society, it is
confessed, in language strong and explicit, that an irrepressible and
agonizing fear of the influence of the free people of color over the
slave population is the primary, essential and prevalent motive for
colonizing them on the coast of Africa - and not, as we are frequently
urged to believe, a desire simply to meliorate their condition and
civilize that continent. On this point, the evidence is abundant.

'In reflecting on the utility of a plan for colonizing the free
people of color, with whom our country abounds, it is natural
that we should be first struck by its tendency to confer a
benefit on ourselves, by ridding us of a population for the most
part idle and useless, and too often vicious and mischievous.'
* * * 'Such a class must evidently be a burden and a nuisance to
the community; and every scheme which affords a prospect of
removing so great an evil must deserve to be most favorably

'But it is not in themselves merely that the free people of
color are a nuisance and burthen. They contribute greatly to the
corruption of the slaves, and to aggravate the evils of their
condition, by rendering them idle, discontented and disobedient.
This also arises from the necessity under which the free blacks
are, of remaining incorporated with the slaves, of associating
habitually with them, and forming part of the same class in
society. The slave seeing his free companion live in idleness,
or subsist however scantily or precariously by occasional and
desultory employment, is apt to grow discontented with his own
condition, and to regard as tyranny and injustice the authority
which compels him to labor.[P]

'Great, however, as the benefits are, which we may thus promise
ourselves, from the colonization of the free people of color, by
its tendency to prevent the discontent and corruption of our
slaves,' &c. * * 'The considerations stated in the first part of
this letter, have long since produced a thorough conviction in
my mind, that the existence of a class of free people of color
in this country is highly injurious to the whites, the slaves
and the free people of color themselves: consequently that all
emancipation, to however small an extent, which permits the
persons emancipated to remain in this country, is an evil, which
must increase with the increase of the operation, and would
become altogether intolerable, if extended to the whole, or even
to a very large part of the black population. I am therefore
strongly opposed to emancipation, in every shape and degree,
unless accompanied by colonization.' - [General Harper's
Letter - First Annual Report, pp. 29, 31, 32, 33, 36.]

'The slaves would be greatly benefitted by the removal of the
free blacks, who now corrupt them and render them
discontented.' - [Second An. Rep.]

'What are these objects? They are in the first place to aid
ourselves, by relieving us from a species of population pregnant
with future danger and present inconvenience.' - [Seventh

'They are dangerous to the community, and this danger ought to
be removed. Their wretchedness arises not only from their
bondage, but from their political and moral degradation. The
danger is not so much that we have a million and a half of
slaves, as that we have in our borders nearly two millions of
men who are necessarily any thing rather than loyal
citizens - nearly two millions of ignorant and miserable beings
who are banded together by the very same circumstances, by which
they are so widely separated in character and in interest from
all the citizens of our great republic.' - [Seventh Annual

'It may be safely assumed, that there is not an individual in
the community, who has given to the subject a moment's
consideration, who does not regard the existence of the free
people of color in the bosom of the country, as an evil of
immense magnitude, and of a dangerous and alarming tendency.
Their abject and miserable condition is too obvious to be
pointed out. All must perceive it, and perceiving it, cannot but
lament it. But their deplorable condition is not more obvious to
the most superficial observer, than is (what is far worse, and
still more to be dreaded,) the powerful and resistless influence
which they exert over the slave population. While their
character remains what it now is, (and the laws and structure of
the country in which they reside, prevent its permanent
improvement,) this influence must of necessity be baneful and
contaminating. Corrupt themselves, like the deadly Upas, they
impart corruption to all around them. Their numbers too, are
constantly and rapidly augmenting. Their annual increase is
truly astonishing, certainly unexampled. The dangerous
ascendency which they have already acquired over the slaves, is
consequently increasing with every addition to their numbers;
and every addition to their numbers is a subtraction from the
wealth and strength, and character, and happiness, and safety of
the country. And if this be true, as it unquestionably is, the
converse is also true; the danger of their undue influence will
lessen with every diminution of their numbers; and every
diminution of their numbers must add, and add greatly, to the
prosperity of the country.' - [Twelfth Annual Report.]

'Another reason is, the pressing and vital importance of
relieving ourselves, as soon as practicable, from this most
dangerous element in our population.' * * 'We all know the
effects produced on our slaves by the fascinating, but delusive
appearance of happiness, exhibited in some persons of their own
complexion, roaming in idleness and vice among them. By removing
the most fruitful source of discontent from among our slaves, we
should render them more industrious and attentive to our
commands.' - [Fourteenth Annual Report.]

'What is the free black to the slave? A standing perpetual
incitement to discontent. Though the condition of the slave be a
thousand times the best - supplied, protected, instead of
destitute and desolate - yet, the folly of the condition, held to
involuntary labor, finds, always, allurement, in the spectacle
of exemption from it, without consideration of the adjuncts of
destitution and misery. The slave would have then, little
excitement to discontent but for the free black.' - [Fifteenth
Annual Report.]

'The evils which arise from the communication of the free people
of color with our slaves, must be obvious to every reflecting
mind; and the consequences which may result from this
communication at some future day, when circumstances are more
favorable to their views, are of a more alarming character. Sir,
circumstances must have brought us to the conclusion, if our
observation had not enabled us to make the remark, that it is
natural for our slaves, so closely allied to the free black
population by national peculiarities, and by relationship, to
make a comparison between their respective conditions, and to
repine at the difference which exists between them. This is a
serious evil, and can only be removed _by preventing the
possibility of a comparison_.

'By removing these people, we rid ourselves of a large party who
will always be ready to assist our slaves in any mischievous
design which they may conceive; and who are better able, by
their intelligence, and the facilities of their communication,
to bring those designs to a successful termination.' - [African
Repository, vol. i. p. 176.]

'The labors of the Colonization Society appear to us highly
deserving of praise. The blacks, whom they carry from the
country, belong to a class far more noxious than the slaves
themselves. They are free without any sense of character to
restrain them, or regular means of obtaining an honest
livelihood. Most of the criminal offences committed in the
southern States are chargeable to them, and their influence over
the slaves is pernicious and alarming.' * * * 'What is the true
nature of the evil of the existence of a portion of the African
race in our population? It is not that there are some, but that
there are so many among us of a different caste, of a different
physical, if not moral, constitution, who never can amalgamate
with the great body of our population. In every country, persons
are to be found varying in their color, origin and character,
from the native mass. But this anomaly creates no inquietude or
apprehension, because the exotics, from the smallness of their
number, are known to be utterly incapable of disturbing the
general tranquillity. Here, on the contrary, the African part of
our population bears so large a proportion to the residue of
European origin, as to create the most lively apprehension,
especially in some quarters of the Union. Any project,
therefore, by which, in a material degree, the dangerous element

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 12 of 29)