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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Or the division of the twentieth part
Of one poor scruple; nay, if the scale do turn
But in the estimation of a hair,
Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate!'

The colonization crusade cannot now fail of being popular. Phlebotomy
being agreed to as a _dernier resort_, I shall briefly enumerate some of
the various professions and classes which may expect to derive no
inconsiderable gain from its execution; for as our government, in
conjunction with benevolent associations, is to appropriate millions of
dollars to accomplish this object, the pay will be sure and liberal.

In the first place, there will be more than a million patients, for
whose accommodation hospitals must be erected. These hospitals will
employ brick-makers, masons, carpenters, painters, glaziers, &c. &c.
&c.; of course, the approval of a large body of mechanics is readily

Physicians will next obtain an extensive practice. Their patients, in
consequence of a free application of the lancet, must necessarily be
debilitated, and can be kept 'quite low' until a long score of charges
be run up against the government.

Among so many patients and so much unavoidable sickness, druggists and
apothecaries will obtain a profitable sale for their medicines. Nurses
will be next in demand, who may expect high wages. Even the lowly
washers of soiled clothes will find the life-blood of the victims
'coined into drachms' for their reward. It is highly probable that many
of the patients may die under the expurgatory process, and hence sextons
and coffin-makers may calculate upon good times. With death come
mourning and lamentation, and 'weeds of wo.' Dealers in crape will
doubtless secure a handsome patronage. Lawyers may hope to profit by the
demise of those who possess property. Indeed, almost every class in
community must, to a greater or less extent, feel the beneficial effects
of this philanthropic but novel experiment. The blood, taken from the
veins of the blacks, may be transfused into our own, and the general
pulse acquire new vigor.

Supposing a majority of the patients should recover, three other classes
will thrive by their expulsion - namely, ship-builders, merchants and
seamen. As our vessels are all occupied in profitable pursuits, new ones
must be built - freights will rise - and the wages of seamen be
proportionably enhanced. - But a truce to irony.

The American Colonization Society, in making the banishment of the
slaves the condition of their emancipation, inflicts upon them an
aggravated wrong, perpetuates their thraldom, and disregards the claims
of everlasting and immutable justice. The language of its most
distinguished supporters is, 'Emancipation, with the liberty to remain
on this side of the Atlantic, is but an act of dreamy
madness' - 'Emancipation, without removal from the country, is out of the
question' - 'All emancipation, to however small an extent, which permits
the person emancipated to remain in this country, is an evil' - 'They
cannot be emancipated as a people, and remain among us.' Thus the
restoration of an inalienable right, and an abandonment of robbery and
oppression, are made to depend upon the practicability of transporting
more than one sixth portion of our whole population to a far distant and
barbarous land! It is impossible to imagine a more cruel, heaven-daring
and God-dishonoring scheme. It exhibits a deliberate and perverse
disregard of every moral obligation, and bids defiance to the
requisitions of the gospel.

Listen to the avowal of Mr Mercer of Virginia, one of the main pillars
and most highly extolled supporters of the Society: 'The abolition of
slavery was no object of desire to him, unless accompanied by
colonization. So far was he from desiring it, unaccompanied by this
condition, that _he would not live in a country where the one took place
without the other_'! This language may be correctly rendered thus: 'I
desire to see two millions of human beings plundered of their rights,
and subjected to every species of wrong and outrage, _ad infinitum_, if
they cannot be driven out of the country. I am perfectly willing to live
with them while they are treated worse than cattle, - ignorant, vicious,
and wretched, - and while they are held under laws which forbid their
instruction; and not only am I willing thus to live, but I am determined
to practise the same oppression. But, if they should be emancipated with
liberty to remain here, and placed in a situation favorable to their
moral and intellectual improvement - a situation in which they could be
no longer bought and sold, lacerated and manacled, defrauded and
oppressed - I would abandon my native land, and never return to her
shores.' And this is the language of a _philanthropist_! and this the
moral principle of the boasted champion of the American Colonization
Society! Whose indignation does not kindle, whose astonishment is not
profound, whose disgust is not excited, in view of these sentiments?

But this is not the acme of colonization insanity. The assertion is made
by a highly respectable partisan, and endorsed by the organ of the
Society, that '_it would be as humane to throw the slaves from the decks
in the middle passage_, [i. e. into the ocean,] _as to set them free in
our country_'!!! And even Henry Clay, who is an oracle in the cause, has
had the boldness to declare, that the slaves should be held in
everlasting servitude if they cannot be colonized in Africa!! And this
sentiment is echoed by another, who says, 'Liberate them only on
condition of their going to Africa or Hayti'!

I will not even seem to undervalue the good sense and quick perception
of the candid and intelligent reader, by any farther endeavors to
illustrate the sacrifice of principle and inhumanity of purpose which
are contained in the extracts under the present section. With so strong
an array of evidence before him, no one, who is not mentally blind or
governed by prejudice, can fail to rise from its perusal with amazement
and abhorrence, and a determination to assist in overthrowing a
combination which is based upon the rotten foundation of expediency and

The Colonization Society expressly denies the right of the slaves to
enjoy freedom and happiness in this country; and this denial
incontestibly tends to rivet their fetters more firmly, or make them the
victims of a relentless persecution.


[R] What right have we to an homestead in the red man's country? Let us
return to the land of our fathers, and leave this soil untarnished by
the footprint of him who hath a white skin! What right have the hosts of
foreign emigrants, who are flocking to our shores, to an homestead among



The leaders in the African colonization crusade seem to dwell with a
malignant satisfaction upon the poverty and degradation of the free
people of color, and are careful never to let an opportunity pass
without heaping their abuse and contempt upon them. It is a common
device of theirs to contrast the condition of the slaves with that of
this class, and invariably to strike the balance heavily in favor of the
former! In this manner, thousands are led to look upon slavery as a
benevolent system, and to deprecate the manumission of its victims.
Nothing but a love of falsehood, or an utter disregard of facts, could
embolden these calumniators to deal so extensively in fiction. What! the
slaves more happy, more moral, more industrious, more orderly, more
comfortable, more exalted, than the free blacks! A more enormous
exaggeration, a more heinous libel, a wider departure from truth, was
never fabricated, or uttered, or known. The slaves, as a body, are in
the lowest state of degradation; they possess no property; they cannot
read; they are as ignorant, as their masters are reckless, of moral
obligation; they have no motive for exertion; they are thieves from
necessity and usage; their bodies are cruelly lacerated by the
cart-whip; and they are disposable property. And yet these poor
miserable, perishing, mutilated creatures are placed above our free
colored population in dignity, in enjoyment, in privilege, in
usefulness, in respectability!!

'There is a class, however, more numerous than all these,
introduced amongst us by violence, notoriously ignorant,
degraded and miserable, mentally diseased, broken-spirited,
_acted upon by no motives to honorable exertions_, SCARCELY
the sympathy and effort which a view of their condition ought to
excite? They wander unsettled and unbefriended through our land,
or sit indolent, abject and sorrowful, by the "streams which
witness their captivity." Their freedom is _licentiousness_, and
to many RESTRAINT WOULD PROVE A BLESSING. To this remark there
are exceptions; exceptions proving that to change their state
would be to elevate their character; that virtue and enterprise
are absent, only, because absent are the causes which create the
one, and the motives which produce the other.' - [African
Repository, vol. i. p. 68.]

'Free blacks are a greater nuisance than even slaves
themselves.' * * * 'They knew that where slavery had been
abolished it had operated to the advantage of the masters, not
of the slaves: they saw this fact most strikingly illustrated in
the case of the free negroes of Boston. If, on the anniversary
celebrated by the free people of color, of the day on which
slavery was abolished, they looked abroad, what did they see?
Not freemen, in the enjoyment of every attribute of freedom,
with the stamp of liberty upon their brows! No, Sir; they saw a
ragged set, crying out liberty! for whom liberty had nothing to
bestow, and whose enjoyment of it was but in name. He spoke of
the great body of the blacks; there were some few honorable
exceptions, he knew, which only proved what might be done for
all.' - [African Repository, vol. ii. p. 328.]

'Although there are individual exceptions distinguished by high
moral and intellectual worth, yet the free blacks in our country
are, as a body, more vicious and degraded than any other which
our population embraces.' * * * 'If, then, they are a useless
and dangerous species of population, we would ask, is it
generous in our southern friends to burthen us with them?
Knowing themselves the evils of slavery, can they wish to impose
upon us an evil scarcely less tolerable? We think it a mistaken
philanthropy, which would liberate the slave, unfitted by
education and habit for freedom, and cast him upon a merciless
and despising world, where his only fortune must be poverty, his
only distinction degradation, and his only comfort
insensibility.' * * * 'I will look no farther when I seek for
the _most degraded, the most abandoned race on the earth_, but
rest my eyes on this people. What but sorrow can we feel at the
_misguided piety_ which has set free so many of them by
death-bed devise or sudden conviction of injustice? Better, far
better, for us, had they been kept in bondage, where the
opportunity, the inducements, the necessity of vice would not
have been so great. Deplorable necessity, indeed, to one borne
down with the consciousness of the violence we have done. Yet I
am clear that, whether we consider it with reference to the
welfare of the State, or the happiness of the blacks, it were
better to have left them in chains, than to have liberated them
to receive such freedom as they enjoy, and greater freedom _we
cannot, must not_ allow them.' * * 'There is not a State in the
Union not at this moment groaning under the evil of this class
of persons, a curse and a contagion whereever they reside.' * *
'The increase of a free black population among us has been
regarded as a greater evil than the increase of
slaves.' - [African Repository, vol. iii. pp. 24, 25, 197, 203,

'Mr. Mercer adverted to the situation of his native State, and
the condition of the free black population existing there, whom
he described as a horde of miserable people - the objects of
universal suspicion; _subsisting by plunder_.' - [Idem, vol. iv.
p. 363.]

'They leave a country in which though born and reared, they are
strangers and aliens; where _severe necessity_ places them in a
class of degraded beings; where they are free without the
blessings and privileges of liberty; where in ceasing to be
slaves of one, they have become subservient to many; where,
neither freemen nor slaves, but placed in an anomalous grade
which they do not understand and others disregard; where no kind
instructer, no hope of preferment, no honorable emulation
prompts them to virtue or deters from vice; their industry
waste, not accumulation; their regular vocation, any thing or
nothing as it may happen; their greater security, sufferance;
their highest reward, forgiveness; vicious themselves and the
cause of vice in others; discontented and exciting discontent;
scorned by one class and _foolishly envied by another_; thus,
and WORSE CIRCUMSTANCED, they, cannot but choose to
move.' - [Idem, vol. v. p. 238.]

'Of all the descriptions of our population, _and of either
portion of the African race_, the free people of color are, by
laws, it is true, proclaim them free; but prejudices, more
powerful than any laws, deny them the privileges of freemen.
They occupy a middle station between the free white population
and the slaves of the United States, and the tendency of their
habits is to corrupt both.' * * * 'That the free colored
population of our country is a great and constantly increasing
evil must be readily acknowledged. Averse to labor, with no
incentives to industry or motives to self-respect, they maintain
a precarious existence by petty thefts and plunder, themselves,
or by inciting our domestics, not free, to rob their owners to
supply their wants.' * * * 'If there is in the whole world, a
more wretched class of human beings than the free people of
color in this country, I do not know where they are to be found.
They have no home, no country, no kindred, no friends. They are
lazy and indolent, because they have no motives to prompt them
to be industrious. They are in general destitute of principle,
because they have nothing to stimulate them to honorable and
praise-worthy conduct. Let them be maltreated ever so much, the
law gives them no redress unless some white person happens to be
present, to be a witness in the case. If they acquire property,
they hold it by the courtesy of every vagabond in the country;
and sooner or later, are sure to have it filched from
them.' - [Idem, vol. vi. pp. 12, 135, 228.]

'The existence, within the very bosom of our country, of an
anomalous race of beings, THE MOST DEBASED UPON EARTH, who
neither enjoy the blessings of freedom, nor are yet in the bonds
of slavery, is a great national evil, which every friend of his
country most deeply deplores.... Tax your utmost powers of
imagination, and you cannot conceive one motive to honorable
effort, which can animate the bosom, or give impulse to the
conduct of a free black in this country. Let him toil from youth
to age in the honorable pursuit of wisdom - let him store his
mind with the most valuable researches of science and
literature - and let him add to a highly gifted and cultivated
intellect, a piety pure, undefiled, and "unspotted from the
world" - it is all nothing: he would not be received into the
very lowest walks of society. If we were constrained to admire
so uncommon a being, our very admiration would mingle with
disgust, because, in the physical organization of his frame, we
meet an insurmountable barrier, even to an approach to social
intercourse, and in the Egyptian color, which nature has stamped
upon his features, a principle of repulsion so strong as to
forbid the idea of a communion either of interest or of feeling,
as utterly abhorrent. Whether these feelings are founded in
reason or not, we will not now inquire - perhaps they are not.
But education and habit, and prejudice have so firmly riveted
them upon us, that they have become as strong as nature
itself - and to expect their removal, or even their slightest
modification, would be as idle and preposterous as to expect
that we could reach forth our hands, and remove the mountains
from their foundations into the vallies, which are beneath
them.' - [African Repository, vol. vii. pp. 230, 331.]

'We have been charged with wishing only to remove our free
blacks, that we may the more effectually rivet the chains of the
slave. But the class we first seek to remove, are neither
freemen nor slaves; _but between both_, AND MORE MISERABLE THAN
EITHER.' * * * 'Who is there, that does not know something of
the condition of the blacks in the northern and middle States?
They may be seen in our cities and larger towns, wandering like
foreigners and outcasts, in the land which gave them birth. They
may be seen in our penitentiaries, and jails, and poor-houses.
They may be found inhabiting the abodes of poverty, and the
haunts of vice. But if we look for them in the society of the
honest and respectable - if we visit the schools in which it is
our boast that the meanest citizen can enjoy the benefits of
instruction - we might also add, if we visit the sanctuaries
which are open for all to worship,[S] and to hear the word of
God; we shall not find them there.' * * 'Leaving slavery and its
subjects for the moment entirely out of view, there are in the
United States 238,000 blacks denominated free, but whose freedom
confers on them, we might say, no privilege but the _privilege
of being more vicious and miserable than slaves can
be_.' - [Seventh Annual Report, pp. 12, 87, 99.]

'Placed midway between freedom and slavery, they know neither
the incentives of the one, nor the restraints of the other; but
are alike injurious by their conduct and example, to all other
classes of society.' - [Eight Annual Report.]

'Of all classes of our population, the most vicious is that of
the free colored. It is the inevitable result of their moral,
political, and civil degradation. Contaminated themselves, they
extend their vices to all around them, to the slaves and to the
whites.' - [Tenth Annual Report.]

'The question arises, where shall these outcasts go? Ohio, and
the free States of the West, which formerly invited them into
their bosom, no longer offer them a welcome home. Disgusted with
their laziness and vice, the inevitable concomitants of the
anomalous relation in which they stand to society, the
authorities of those States are seeking to get rid of what they
find, too late, to be a curse to any settlement of whites - a
thriftless race of vagabonds, whose footsteps are the sure
precursors of indigence and crime. One of the most intelligent
gentlemen of Ohio, (Mr Charles Hammond,) in a recent notice of
this subject, says, "This dangerous class of population has
increased considerably within a few years past, and the slaves
States cannot too soon adopt efficient measures to get rid of
it. Emigrations to Liberia ought to be provided for, and
insisted upon, and the legislatures should pass laws to prevent
emancipation, without adequate provision for the transportation
of the manumitted."' - [Lynchburg Virginian.]

'As it is now, they are for the most part in a debased and
wretched condition. They have the vices of our community without
its virtues. And what is worse, I speak of the majority, they
have no desire to rise from their state of abject depression - no
wish to gain a respectable elevation of character. Consequently
it is difficult, if not impossible, to present them motives
Which shall incite them to enter on a course of industry and
virtue.' * * * 'Bound by no political ties to the community in
which they dwell, and excluded for the most part from exercising
the rights and privileges of freemen, on the ground of their
alleged inferiority and worthlessness, they have no inducements
to abandon lives of indolence, sensuality and recklessness, or
to support the laws and institutions of the government placed
over them. Nothing but the fear of suffering the penalty of
violated law, can prevent them from preying on those among whom
they live.' - [Middletown (Ct.) Gazette.]

'They have taken the free black that, as a class, dwells among
us a living nuisance, nominally free, but bowed to the ground by
INSURRECTION - they have shewn him to be capable of quiet and
judicious self-government. - ... We cannot shut our eyes any
longer upon the disadvantages of our black population, whether
in slavery or freedom. It is a sword perpetually suspended over
our heads by a single hair; it is the fountain of bitter waters
that poisons all our enjoyments.' - [Speeches of J. R. Townsend,
Esq. and W. W. Campbell, Esq. New-York city.]

'The fact was most glaring, without an inquiry, that the same
shackles which bound them, fastened them also to the resources
of the soil, and the interests of the community; and when these
were broken, and the incentives of authority removed, the weight
of ignorance, the want of better incentives, and the fatal and
untried power of grateful but ruinous idleness, sunk them to a
state, which, however elevated in theory, was in fact more
degraded and more miserable than that of bondage. In addition to
all this, pauperism, with the numerous evils of corrupt and
corrupting indolence, threatened to impose its sluggish weight
upon a groaning community. Hence, the progress of emancipation
was, for the time, most righteously arrested.' - [Address of the
Board of Managers of the African Education Society.]

'Who are the free people of color in the United States? In what
circumstances does philanthropy find them! There are indeed
individuals and families, who are sober, industrious, pious. But
what are the remainder, the mass? Every one knows that their
condition is deep and wretched degradation; but, only a few have
ever formed any accurate conception of the reality. The fact is,
that as a class they are branded. They have no home, no country,
no such personal interest in the welfare of the community, as
gives a certain degree of manliness to almost every white
man.... Three hundred thousand freemen in this country, are
freemen only in name, forming only little else than a mass of
pauperism and crime.... Here the black man is paralysed and
crushed by the constant sense of inferiority. He has no
effectual incentives to manly enterprise. He stands in a
degraded class of society; and out of that class he never dreams
of rising.' - [Christian Spectator.]

'This is the true condition of the free colored population of
our land. They are placed mid way between freedom and slavery;
they feel neither the moral stimulants of the one, nor the
restraints of the other, and are alike injurious to every other
class of the community.' - [Southern Religious Telegraph.]

I repel these charges against the free people of color, as unmerited,
wanton and untrue. It would be absurd to pretend, that, as a class,
they maintain a high character: it would be equally foolish to deny,
that intemperance, indolence and crime prevail among them to a mournful
extent. But I do not hesitate to assert, from an intimate acquaintance
with their condition, that they are more temperate and more industrious
than that class of whites who are in as indigent circumstances, but who
have certainly far greater incentives to labor and excel; that they are

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 16 of 29)