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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There are several points upon which I wish to fasten the attention of
the reader:

1. The inhumanity and craftiness of these propositions for the removal
of the free people of color.

It will be seen that the conspirators have taxed their ingenuity to the
utmost, to ascertain the exact number of emigrants which must be
transported annually, the amount of money that must be raised, the
persons that must be selected, the number of vessels that must be
employed, &c. &c. It is their determination, if the necessary means can
be obtained, to transport the annual increase of our colored population;
but in this calculation we find no allowance made for unwillingness or
resistance on the part of those who are the objects of their
supervision. It is taken for granted that all will be induced to go into
exile, or must be made willing compulsorily. Nothing else is
contemplated but their entire expulsion. In order to insure a reduction
of this 'alarming increase,' and effectually to check the fruitfulness
of generation, even the unmanly and scandalous proposition is made to
remove principally those of both sexes who are just come to the age of
puberty! The system of _espionage_, established by Napoleon to prevent
the possibility of a successful conspiracy, was not more detestable and
observant than is this violent and unnatural project. 'If young
_females_ were encouraged to go'! - why, then they could not propagate
here! Infamous calculation!

2. The principal object avowed for the removal of the free people of
color, is, their corruptive and dangerous influence over the slave

It is demonstrated, then, beyond disputation, that this removal will
infuse new strength into the tottering system of slavery, tighten the
grasp of the masters upon the throats of the slaves, lull them into a
profound and quiet sleep, postpone the hour of emancipation, and enhance
the security and value of slave property. The terror of mind which calls
for this separation cannot be benevolence, and the combination which
seeks to effect it cannot merit support. It were folly to hope that the
owners of slaves will ultimately emancipate them, from conscientious
motives. In the first place, they affect to be innocent in holding their
victims in servitude; secondly, they are assured by their colonization
brethren that they are not guilty of oppression, but, on the contrary,
are watchful guardians; and lastly, they are obstinate in shutting their
eyes upon the light, and kindle into a rage on being arraigned for their
tyrannous conduct. Our only ground of hope, then, is in increasing the
difficulty of holding their slaves, in multiplying the causes of their
apprehensions, in destroying the value of slave labor, and in making
their situation full of disquietude and distress. Such a course is not
inconsistent with benevolence - such a course we are obligated to pursue,
as we value the present and everlasting welfare of the oppressor and the
oppressed, and desire to have a conscience void of offence toward God
and toward man. It may - it _must_ be effected by a scrupulous abstinence
from the productions of slavery; by encouraging planters to cultivate
their lands by the hands of free laborers; by educating our free colored
population, and placing them on an equality with ourselves; and by
constantly exhibiting the criminality of holding rational and immortal
beings in servile bondage. Thus, and thus only, shall we be able to
liberate our enslaved countrymen.

3. Consider the inevitable consequence of these reiterated and malignant
statements, with regard to the habits and designs of the free people of

First, it deters a large number of masters from liberating their slaves,
and hence directly perpetuates 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 imperiously calls for this severe treatment. The
legislative enactment of Ohio, which not long since drove many of the
colored inhabitants of that State into Upper Canada, was the legitimate
fruit of the anathemas of the Colonization Society. A bill has been
reported in the same legislature for preventing free people of color
from participating in the benefit of the common school fund, in order to
hasten their expulsion from the State! Other States are multiplying
similar disabilities, and hanging heavier weights upon their free
colored population. The Legislature of Louisiana has enacted that
whosoever shall make use of language, in any public discourse, from the
bar, the bench, the pulpit, the stage, or in any other place whatsoever
shall make use of language, in any private discourses, or shall make use
of signs or actions having a tendency to produce discontent among the
colored population, shall suffer imprisonment at hard labor, not less
than three years, nor more than twenty-one years, or DEATH, at the
discretion of the court!! It has also prohibited the instruction of the
blacks in Sabbath Schools - $500 penalty for the first offence - DEATH for
the second!! The Legislature of Virginia has passed a bill which
subjects all free negroes who shall be convicted of remaining in the
commonwealth contrary to law, to the liability of _being sold by the
sheriff_. All meetings of free negroes, at any school-house or
meeting-house, for teaching them reading or writing, are declared an
unlawful assembly; and it is made the duty of any justice of the peace
to issue his warrant to enter the house where such unlawful assemblage
is held, for the purpose of apprehending or dispersing such free
negroes. A fine is to be imposed on every white person who instructs at
such meetings. All emancipated slaves, who shall remain more than twelve
months, contrary to law, shall revert to the executors as assets. Laws
have been passed in Georgia and North Carolina, imposing a heavy tax or
imprisonment on every free person of color who shall come into their
ports in the capacity of stewards, cooks, or seamen of any vessels
belonging to the non-slaveholding States. The Legislature of Tennessee
has passed an act forbidding free blacks from coming into the State to
remain more than twenty days. The penalty is a fine of from ten to fifty
dollars, and confinement in the penitentiary from one to two years.
Double the highest penalty is to be inflicted after the first offence.
The act also prohibits manumission, without an immediate removal from
the State. The last Legislature of Maryland passed a bill, by which no
free negro or mulatto is allowed to emigrate to, or settle in the State,
under the penalty of fifty dollars for every week's residence therein;
and if he refuse or neglect to pay such fine, he shall be committed to
jail and sold by the sheriff at public sale; and no person shall employ
or harbor him, under the penalty of twenty dollars for every day he
shall be so employed, hired or harbored! It is not lawful for any free
blacks to attend any meetings for religious purposes, unless conducted
by a _white_ licensed or ordained preacher, or some respectable white
person duly authorised! All free colored persons residing in the State,
are compelled to register their names, ages, &c. &c.; and if any negro
or mulatto shall remove from the State, and remain without the limits
thereof for a space longer than thirty consecutive days, unless before
leaving the State he deposits with the clerk of the county in which he
resides, _a written statement of his object in doing so_, and his
intention of returning again, or unless he shall have been detained by
sickness or coercion, _of which he shall bring a certificate_, he shall
be regarded as a resident of another State, and be subject, if he
return, to the penalties imposed by the foregoing provisions upon free
negroes and mulattoes of another State, migrating to Maryland! It is not
lawful for any person or persons to purchase of any free negro or
mulatto any articles, unless he produce a certificate from a justice of
the peace, or three respectable persons residing in his neighborhood,
that he or they have reason to believe, and do believe, that such free
negro or mulatto came honestly and bona fide into possession of any
such articles so offered for sale! A bill has been reported to the
Legislature of Pennsylvania, which enacts, that from and after a
specified time, no negro or mulatto shall be permitted to emigrate into
and settle in that State, without entering into bond in the penal sum of
_five hundred dollars_, conditioned for his good behavior. If he neglect
or refuse to comply with this requisition, such punishment shall be
inflicted upon him as is now directed in the case of vagrants. Free
colored residents are not to be allowed to migrate from one township or
county to another, without producing a certificate from the Clerk of the
Court of Quarter Sessions, or a Justice of the Peace, or an Alderman!
The passage of a similar law has been urged even upon the Legislature of
Massachusetts by a writer in the Salem Gazette!

All these proscriptive measures, and others less conspicuous but equally
oppressive, - which are not only flagrant violations of the Constitution
of the United States, but in the highest degree disgraceful and
inhuman, - are resorted to, (to borrow the language of the Secretary in
his Fifteenth Annual Report,) 'for the more complete accomplishment of
the great objects of the American Colonization Society'!!

I appeal to the candor and common sense of the reader, if this grievous
persecution be not justly chargeable to the Society? It is constantly
thundering 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 influence 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 penitentiaries, 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 intellectual 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, to which reference has
been made: hence, too, the increasing disposition 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 tempest 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: THEIR
undeniable, and it is conclusive. 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

The assertion that the free blacks corrupt the morals of the slaves, is
too ludicrous to need a serious refutation. Corrupt the morals of those
who are recognized and treated as brutes, and who know as little of the
laws of God as of the laws of the land! Immaculate creatures! The system
of slavery is constantly developing new excellencies: it is, we now
perceive, the protector of virtue, the enemy of vice, and a purifier of
the soul!

But something more indiscreet and preposterous than this, is advanced
for our admiration. We are gravely assured, first, by a New-England
clergyman, that, generally, the condition of the free man of color 'is
one in comparison with which the condition of the slave is _enviable_;'
and, secondly, by the last distinguished convert to the Colonization
Society - the Hon. Mr. Archer of Virginia - 'the condition of the slave is
_a thousand times_ the best, [the disparity is wonderful!] - _supplied_,
_protected_, instead of _destitute_ and _desolate_'![Q] Let us draw a
brief comparison. The limbs of the free black are fetterless; he is
controlled by no brutal driver; he bleeds not under the lash; he is his
own master; his wife and children cannot be torn from his arms; he
enjoys the fruits of his own labor; he can improve his own mind, make
his own bargains, manage his own business, go from place to place, and
assert his own rights. The situation and privileges of the slave are
exactly the reverse. Reader, are they 'enviable' - 'a thousand times the
best' - in comparison with those of the former? I do not mean to say that
there are no instances in which the slave fares as well as the free man
of color; but the argument of these apologists implies that a state of
slavery is superior to a state of freedom, or it is worthless.

4. It appears, from the quotations that have been given, that the only
reason why the free blacks are not colonized in the 'far West,' or in
Canada, or Hayti, or Mexico, is, because their proximity to the slave
States might prove detrimental. If they could be sent to any or to all
these places, without any danger to ourselves, why then all objections
would cease. This confession places the hypocrisy of this Society in
bold relief. It pretends to be anxious to evangelize benighted Africa,
and stop the slave trade; but only assure it that the blacks may be
safely colonized nearer home, and Africa might still continue to grope
in darkness, and the slave trade to increase in enormity, and its bowels
of compassion would speedily cease to yearn! - Hence it is that the rapid
enlargement of the Wilberforce Settlement in Upper Canada so disturbs
the repose of the advocates of African colonization; and many of them
would rejoice at its overthrow.


[P] How very strange that the slave should 'regard as tyranny and
injustice the authority which compels him to labor' without

[Q] Paupers and criminals are supplied and _protected_. How invidious to
treat them so generously, and leave honest, hard-working men exposed to
destitution and abandonment! They ought to be sent to the poor-house or
penitentiary forthwith.



The implacable spirit of this Society is most apparent in its
determination not to cease from its labors, until our whole colored
population be expelled from the country. The following is the evidence
in confirmation of this charge:

'How came we by this population? By the prevalence for a century
of a guilty commerce. And will not the prevalence for a century
of a restoring commerce, place them on their own shores? Yes,
surely!' - [African Repository, vol. i. p. 347.]

'For several years the subject of abolition of slavery has been
brought before you. I am decidedly opposed to the project
that they become a corrupt and degraded class, as burthensome to
themselves as they are hurtful to the rest of society. To permit
the blacks to remain amongst us, after their emancipation, would
be to aggravate and not to cure the evil.' - [Idem, vol. ii. pp.
188, 189.]

AFRICA OR TO HAYTI.' - [Idem, vol. iii. p. 26.]

'_I am not complaining of the owners of slaves_; IT WOULD BE AS
SET THEM FREE IN OUR COUNTRY.' * * * 'The Colonization Society,
I undertake to show, presents such a scheme. Slaveholders have
given it their approbation; they will approve it, and they can
approve of no other. _Any scheme of emancipation without
colonization_, they know and see and feel to be productive of
nothing but evil; evil to all whom it affects: to the white
population, to the slaves, to the _manumitted themselves_.' * *
'Throughout the slaveholding States there is a strong objection,
even among the warmest friends of the African race, to slaves
being liberated and allowed to remain among us; and some States
have enacted laws against it. _The objection is, in our
individual opinion, well founded._' - [Idem, vol. iv. pp. 226,
300, 340.]

'In connexion with this subject, your memorialists beg leave to
mention, that by an act of the Virginia Legislature, passed in
1805, emancipated slaves forfeit their freedom by remaining for
a longer period than twelve months, within the limits of the
Commonwealth. This law, odious and unjust as it may at first
view appear, and hard as it may seem to bear upon the liberated
negro, was doubtless dictated by sound policy, and _its repeal
would be regarded by none with more unfeigned regret, than by
the friends of African Colonization_. It has restrained many
masters from giving freedom to their slaves, and has thereby
contributed to check the growth of an evil _already too great
and formidable_.' * * 'Under the influence of a policy, already
referred to, _and justified by the necessity from which it
sprung_, the laws of Virginia have prohibited emancipation
within the limits of the State, but on condition of the early
removal of the individual emancipated.' * * 'While hundreds,
perhaps we might say thousands, of the free colored people, are
seeking a passage to Liberia; hundreds who hold slaves, would
willingly set them at liberty, were the means of their removal
provided. And till those means are provided, the liberation of
the slave would neither be a blessing to himself, nor the
public. His liberty under any circumstances may be a debt due,
in the abstract, to the claims of human nature; but when applied
to him individually, it would be a calamity. We cannot conceive
of a more deplorable state of society, than what our
slaveholding states would present, with their black population
afloat, without a home, without the means of subsistence, and
without those self-relying habits, which might lead them to
obtain an independent livelihood. _It is not therefore incumbent
upon those who hold slaves, to set them at liberty, till some
means are provided for their removal, or at least for their
subsistence._ They owe it neither to themselves, to their
country, nor the unfortunate beings around them.' * * * 'Those
slaves still in my possession, I cannot conscientiously
emancipate, unless they shall be removed by the Society to
Liberia.' - [Idem, vol. v. pp. 20, 53, 89, 177.]

'If the question were submitted, whether there should be either
immediate or gradual emancipation of all the slaves in the
United States, _without their removal or colonization_, painful
as it is to express the opinion, I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT IT WOULD
BE UNWISE TO EMANCIPATE THEM.' * * 'Is our posterity doomed to
endure forever not only all the ills flowing from the state of
slavery, but all which arise from incongruous elements of
population, separated from each other by invincible prejudices,
and by natural causes? Whatever may be the character of the
remedy proposed, we may confidently pronounce it inadequate,
unless it provides efficaciously for the _total_ and _absolute_
separation, by an extensive space of water or of land, at least,
of the white portion of our population from that, which is free,
of the colored.' * * 'Who, if this promiscuous residence of
whites and blacks, of freemen and slaves, is forever to
continue, can imagine the servile wars, the carnage and the
crimes which will be its probable consequences, without
shuddering with horror?' * * 'Gentlemen of the highest
respectability from the South, assure us, that there is among
the owners of slaves a very extensive and increasing desire to
emancipate them. Their patriotism, their humanity, nay their
self-interest, prompt to this; but it is not expedient, it is
not safe to do it, _without being able to remove them_.' * *
'How important it is, as it respects our character abroad, that
we hasten to _clear our land of our black population_!'

'Some benevolent minds in the overflowings of their
philanthropy, advocate amalgamation of the two classes, saying,
let the colored class be freed, and remain among us as denizens
of the Empire; surely all classes of mankind are alike descended
from the primitive parentage of Eden, then why not intermingle
in one common society as friends and brothers. _No, Sir, no._ I
hope to prove at no very distant day, that a Southron can make
sacrifices for the cause of Colonization beyond seas; but for a
Home Department in those matters, I repeat, _no, Sir, no_. What
right, I demand, have the children of Africa to an homestead in
the white man's country?'[R]

'Let the regenerated African rise to Empire; nay, let Genius
flourish, and Philosophy shed its mild beams to enlighten and
instruct the posterity of Ham, returning "redeemed and
disenthralled," from their long captivity in the New World. But,
Sir, be all these benefits enjoyed by the African race under the
shade of their native palms. _Let the Atlantic billow heave its
high and everlasting barrier between their country and ours._
Let this fair land, which the white man won by his chivalry,
which he has adorned by the arts and elegancies of polished
life, be kept sacred for his descendants, untarnished by the
footprint of him who hath ever been a slave.' - [Idem, vol. vi.
pp. 5, 12, 23, 110, 364, 371, 372.]

'The idea of emancipating our slaves, and _permitting them to
remain within the limits of the U. S._ whether as a measure of
humanity or of policy, is most decisively reprobated by
universal public sentiment.... Does any man in his senses desire
this population to remain among us? If the whole community could
vii. pp. 230, 231.]

'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.... 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_.' - [First Annual Report.]

'They will annex the condition that the emancipated SHALL LEAVE
THE COUNTRY.' - [Second Annual Report.]

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 14 of 29)