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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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superior in their habits to the hosts of foreign emigrants who are
crowding to our shores, and poisoning our moral atmosphere; and that
their advancement in intelligence, in wealth, and in morality,
considering the numberless and almost insurmountable difficulties under
which they have labored, has been remarkable. I am informed that
twenty-five or thirty years ago, the colored inhabitants of Philadelphia
scarcely owned a dollar's worth of real estate, whereas they now own
enough to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This fact speaks
volumes in praise of their industry and economy; for, be it remembered,
they have had to accumulate this property in small sums, by shaving the
beards, cleaning the boots and clothes, and being the servants of their
white contemners, and in other menial employments. In Baltimore,
Philadelphia, New-York, and other places, there are several colored
persons whose individual property is worth from ten thousand to one
hundred thousand dollars;[T] and in all those cities, there are primary
and high schools for the education of the colored
population - flourishing churches of various denominations - and numerous
societies for mutual assistance and improvement, &c. In Philadelphia
alone, I believe, there are nearly fifty colored associations for
benevolent, literary, scientific and moral purposes.[U] Yet these are
the people of whom it is said, 'they are acted upon by no motives to
honorable exertions;' that they are 'scarcely reached in their
debasement by the heavenly light' (almost a denial of the power of the
Holy Ghost); that 'their freedom is licentiousness;' that 'they are a
greater nuisance than even the slaves themselves;' that they are 'the
most degraded, the most abandoned race on the earth;' that they are
'worse circumstanced than the slave population;' that they have 'no
privilege but the privilege of being more vicious and miserable than
slaves can be;' and that they are 'a thriftless race of vagabonds, whose
footsteps are the sure precursors of indigence and crime.' And these
false and infamous charges are brought against them by a Society which
professes to cherish for them the highest regard, and to be anxious to
give them respectability in the eyes of the world!

The truth is, the traducers of the free blacks have no adequate
conception of the amount of good sense, sterling piety, moral honesty,
virtuous pride of character, and domestic enjoyment, which exists among
this class. The spirited remarks of the colored citizens of New-York, in
their address to the public, (_vide_ PART II. p. 16,) in reference to
their calumniators, are exceedingly apposite: 'Their patrician
principles prevent an intercourse with men in the middle walks of life,
among whom a large portion of our people may be classed. We ask them to
visit the dwellings of the respectable part of our people, and we are
satisfied that they will discover more civilization and refinement, than
will be found among the same number of white families of an equal
standing.' A personal examination enables me to say that this challenge
is neither presumptuous nor boastful. I confess, I have been most
agreeably, nay, wonderfully disappointed, in my intercourse with them,
which is daily elevating them in my estimation. Many of their number I
proudly rank among my most familiar friends and correspondents.

With regard to the 'ragged set in Boston, crying out liberty!' every
candid resident will testify that this is a libellous representation;
that our free blacks are a quiet, orderly, well-dressed, and (as far as
they can obtain employment) industrious class of citizens; and that
their improvement is rapid and constant. Every curious observer who
visits their houses of worship, will be surprised at the general
neatness of attire and propriety of manners of the worshippers. 'A
ragged set,' forsooth! The slander may be uttered in the city of
Washington, at an anniversary of the American Colonization Society; but
no man, who regards his character for veracity and intelligence, _dare_
publish it in Boston.

The effects of this reiterated abuse are eminently mischievous. It
serves to kindle the fires of persecution, to strengthen prejudice, to
drive its victims to despair, and to increase the desire for their
banishment. 'Tax your utmost powers of imagination,' says one of the
colonization advocates, 'and you cannot conceive _one motive_ to
honorable effort, which can animate the bosom, or give impulse to the
conduct of the free black in this country'! Is this language calculated
to allay animosity, or beget confidence, or suppress contempt, or heal
division, or excite sympathy? Far otherwise. Are there not thousands of
living witnesses to prove the falsity of this assertion; thousands who
adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour, and whose 'motives to honorable
effort' are higher than heaven and vast as eternity; thousands, who,
though their enemies spare no efforts to crush them in the dust, and in
despite of mountains of difficulties, rise up with a giant's strength to
respectability and usefulness? 'No motive to honorable effort'! Perish
the calumny!

Again, they are stigmatized as the 'wild stirrers up of sedition and
insurrection.' This charge is even more malignant than the other, and
utterly groundless. Its propagation, however, tends directly to excite a
persecution which may drive the accused to sedition, in self-defence.
There is no evidence that any free man of color was enlisted in the late
bloody struggle in Virginia, or in any manner accessary thereto. On the
contrary, it was deprecated by our colored citizens generally, not only
on account of its sanguinary acts, but because they knew it would
operate to their own disadvantage by being placed to their account. The
following honorable expression of feeling was made at a public meeting
of the people of color in Wilmington, Delaware, about that period:

'The subscribers, having a knowledge of the alarm which prevails
in the minds of some of the citizens of this place, on account
of various reports which some mischievous person or persons have
circulated, in regard to the colored population, beg leave to
represent, on behalf of themselves and brethren, that having
made inquiry into the subject, they have found said reports to
be without the least foundation; and they owe it to themselves
further to declare, that, so far from any disposition on the
part of the colored people to disturb the peace and good order
of the community, they are, on the contrary, fully aware that it
consists not less with their interests than their duty to
refrain from every art that would excite commotion or disorder,
in which the colored people would have every thing to lose and
nothing to gain. We have been treated by the citizens of
Wilmington and its vicinity with kindness, for which we ought to
be grateful, and it is our solemn purpose to pursue such a
course of conduct as may merit a continuance of their favor and
confidence. Should any among us be found so wicked and blinded
as to enter into plots and contrivances, inimical to the present
harmony, we thus solemnly pledge ourselves to our white friends
and neighbors, that we will be among the first to sound the
alarm, and unite in effecting their apprehension and
suppression.'

The free colored citizens of Baltimore, Maryland, also came out unitedly
in the following pacific and truly exemplary spirit:

'Whereas, there has prevailed in this city, during the past
week, a very unpleasant excitement, originating from suspicions
and reports totally without foundation, and highly derogatory to
our good sense; and whereas this excitement, though
unnecessarily created, may, in its ultimate tendency, prove
prejudicial to the interests of the free colored population of
this State. Therefore,

'Resolved, That we challenge the most rigid investigation as to
the truth of those evil reports, which have recently been so
industriously propagated in this city by the credulous, and
those who are totally unacquainted with the character of colored
Baltimoreans.

'Resolved, That we are not so reckless of our true interest, so
blind to utter helplessness - not to say so devoid of humanity,
as to entertain the hostile designs, or to cherish the fiendish
passions, which it seems have been, by the unthinking, so
unjustly attributed to us.

'Resolved, That we have been too long in the land of bibles, and
temples, and ministers, to look upon blood and carnage with
complacency - that we have been too long in this enlightened
metropolis, to think of the amelioration of our condition, in
any other way than that sanctioned by the Gospel of Peace.

'Resolved, That we rely upon a peaceable and upright conduct, for
a continuance of that favor and protection which we have
hitherto enjoyed, and which, the liberal, the wise, and the
good, are ever ready to accord.'

How impolitic, then, as well as unjust, to brand this meek and
magnanimous class as 'the wild stirrers up of sedition and
insurrection'!

This treatment, I repeat, is impolitic - nay, suicidal. To abuse,
proscribe and exasperate them, to trample them under our feet, to goad
them on the right hand and on the left, is not the way to secure their
loyalty, but rather to make them revengeful, desperate and seditious.
Our true policy is, to meliorate their condition, invigorate their
hopes, instruct their ignorant minds, admit them to an equality of
privileges with ourselves, nourish and patronise their genius, and, by
giving them mechanical trades and mercantile advantages, open to them
the avenue to competence and wealth. We shall thus make them contented
and happy, and place them in a situation which will lead them still more
heartily to deprecate any insurrectionary movements among our slave
population. The following is the conciliatory and generous language of
a man, who has been denounced as a blood-hound and a monster. It will be
well for us if we profit by it.

'Americans! notwithstanding you have and do continue to treat us
more cruel than any heathen nation ever did a people it had
subjected to the same condition that you have us, let us reason.
Had you not better take our body, while you have it in your
power, and while we are yet ignorant and wretched, not knowing
but little, give us education, and teach us the pure religion of
our Lord and Master, which is calculated to make the lion lie
down in peace with the lamb, and which millions of you have
beaten us nearly to death for trying to obtain since we have
been among you, and thus at once gain our affection while we are
ignorant? Throw away your fears and prejudices then, and
enlighten us and treat us like men, and we will like you more
than we do now hate you. And tell us now no more about
colonization; for America is as much our country as it is yours.
Treat us like men, and there is no danger but we will all live
in peace and happiness together; for we are not, like you,
hard-hearted, unmerciful, and unforgiving. What a happy country
this will be, if the whites will listen! What nation under
heaven, will be able to do any thing with us, unless God gives
us up into its hand? But, Americans, I declare to you, while you
keep us and our children in bondage, and treat us like brutes,
to make us support you and your families, we cannot be your
friends. You do not look for it, do you? Treat us then like men,
and we will be your friends. And there is not a doubt in my
mind, but that the whole of the past will be sunk into oblivion,
and we yet, under God, will become a united and happy
people.'[V]

FOOTNOTES:

[S] A cruel taunt. The wonder is not that colored persons do not more
generally visit our sanctuaries, but that they _ever_ should attend. If
they go, they are thrust into obscure, remote and unseemly pens or
boxes, as if they were not embraced in the offers of redeeming love, and
were indeed a part of the brute creation. It is an awful commentary upon
the pride of human nature. I never can look up to these scandalous
retreats for my colored brethren, without having my soul overwhelmed
with emotions of shame, indignation and sorrow. No black man, however
virtuous, respectable or pious he may be, can own or occupy a pew in a
central part of any of our houses of worship. And yet it is
reproachfully alleged - by a clergyman, too! - that 'if we visit the
sanctuaries which are _open to all_ (!) to worship, and to hear the word
of God, we shall not find them there'! No - I hope they will respect
themselves and the religion of Jesus more, than to occupy the places
alluded to.

[T] Francis Devany, the colored sheriff of Liberia, is reputed by
colonizationists to be worth property to the value of twenty-five
thousand dollars; and they have trumpeted the fact all over the country,
and so repeatedly as almost to lead one to imagine that he is the
greatest and wealthiest man in all the world! James Forten, the
reputable colored sail-maker of Philadelphia, - a gentleman of highly
polished manners and superior intelligence, - with whom Devany worked as
a journeyman, can _buy him out_ three or four times over. Joseph Cassey,
another estimable and intelligent man of color, or the widow of Bishop
Allen, both of Philadelphia, can purchase him. I mention their names,
not to extol them, but simply to show, that what begets fame in Liberia
is unproductive here.

[U] The following statement, recently published in the Philadelphia
'Friend and Advocate of Truth,' is very creditable to the colored
inhabitants of that city:

'Many erroneous opinions have prevailed, with regard to the true
character and condition of the free colored people of
Pennsylvania. They have been represented as an idle and
worthless class, furnishing inmates for our poor-houses and
penitentiaries. A few plain facts are sufficient to refute these
gratuitous allegations. In the city and suburbs of Philadelphia,
by the census of 1830, they constituted about eleven per cent.,
or one ninth of the whole population. From the account of the
guardians of the poor, printed by order of the board, it appears
that of the out-door poor receiving regular weekly supplies, in
the first month, 1830, the time of the greatest need, the people
of color were about one to twenty-three whites; or not quite
four per cent., a disproportion of whites to colored, of more
than two to one in favor of the latter. When it is considered
that they perform the lowest offices in the community - that the
avenues to what are esteemed the most honorable and profitable
professions in society, are in a great measure, if not wholly
closed against them, these facts are the more creditable to
them. One cause of this disproportion, which we presume is but
little known, but which is worthy of special notice, will be
found in the numerous societies among themselves for mutual aid.
These societies expended, in one year, about six thousand
dollars for the relief of the sick and the indigent of their own
color, from funds raised among themselves. Besides, the taxes
paid by the colored people of Philadelphia, exceed in amount the
sums expended out of the funds of the city for the relief of
their poor.'

It is also a fact that the proportion of whites in the alms-house in
New-York is greater than that of the blacks. I am aware that other
evidence, of a different kind, may be adduced in other places; but it is
in the highest degree unfair to measure the whole body of blacks by the
whole body of whites - for the privileges and advantages of the whites
are as ten thousand to one: they monopolise almost every branch of
business and every pursuit of life - they have all the means necessary to
make men virtuous, intelligent, active, and opulent. Far different is
the situation of the free blacks. How slender are their means! how mean
and limited their occupations! how inferior their advantages! Almost
every avenue to wealth, preferment and usefulness, is closed against
them. How are they persecuted! how avoided in the streets! how excluded
from the benefits of society! To point at them the finger of scorn, to
taunt them for their inferiority or helplessness, is like putting out
the eyes and clipping the wings of the eagle, and then reproaching him
because he can neither see nor fly. To boast of our superior refinement,
intelligence and virtue, is the extreme of vainglory, and adding insult
to injury. Shame! shame!




SECTION IX.

THE AMERICAN COLONIZATION SOCIETY DENIES THE POSSIBILITY OF ELEVATING
THE BLACKS IN THIS COUNTRY.


The detestation of feeling, the fire of moral indignation, and the agony
of soul which I have felt kindling and swelling within me, in the
progress of this review, under this section reach the acme of intensity.
It is impossible for the mind to conceive, or the tongue to utter, or
the pen to record, sentiments more derogatory to the character of a
republican and Christian people than the following:

'Introduced as this class has been, in a way which cannot be
justified, injurious in its influence to the community, degraded
in character and miserable in condition, _forever excluded_, by
public sentiment, by law and by a physical distinction, from the
most powerful motives to exertion,' &c. * * 'In addition to all
the causes which tend to pollute, to degrade and render them
miserable, there are principles of _repulsion_ between them and
us, which can _never_ be overcome.' * * 'Their bodies are free,
their minds enslaved. They can neither bless their brethren in
servitude, nor rise from their own obscurity, nor add to the
purity of our morals, nor to our wealth, nor to our political
strength.' * * 'Let us recollect that our fathers have placed
them here; and that our prejudices, prejudices _too deep to be
eradicated_ while they remain among us, have produced the
standard of their morals.' * * 'Nor will it be questioned that
their establishment on the African coast ... will confer on them
invaluable blessings which _in this country_ they can _never_
enjoy.' * * 'They _must be_ hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Do what they will, there is but this one prospect before
them.' - [African Repository, vol. 1, pp. 34, 144, 162, 176, 226,
317.]


'Shut out from the privileges of citizens, separated from us by
the _insurmountable_ barrier of color, they can _never_
amalgamate with us, but must remain _for ever_ a distinct and
inferior race, repugnant to our republican feelings, and
dangerous to our republican institutions.' * * * 'It is not that
there are some, but that there are so many among us of a
different physical, if not moral, constitution, who _never_ can
amalgamate with the great body of our population.' - [African
Repository, vol. ii. pp. 188, 189, 338.]


'In consequence of his own inveterate habits, and the no less
inveterate prejudices of the whites, it is a sadly demonstrated
truth, that the negro _cannot, in this country_, become an
enlightened and useful citizen. Driven to the lowest stratum of
society, and enthralled there for melancholy ages, his mind
becomes proportionably grovelling, and to gratify his animal
desires is his most exalted aspiration.' * * 'The negro, _while
in this country_, will be treated as an inferior being.' * *
'Our slavery is such, as that no device of our philanthropy for
elevating the wretched subjects of its debasement to the
ordinary privileges of men, can descry one cheering glimpse of
hope that our object can _ever_ be accomplished. The very
commencing act of freedom to the slave, is to place him in a
condition still worse, if possible, both for his moral habits,
his outward provision, and for the community that embosoms him,
than even that, deplorable as it was, from which he has been
removed. He is now a freeman; but his complexion, his features,
every peculiarity of his person, pronounce to him another
doom, - that every wish he may conceive, every effort he can
make, shall be _little better than vain_. Even to every talent
and virtuous impulse which he may feel working in his bosom,
obstacles stand in impracticable array; not from a defect of
essential title to success, but from _a positive external law,
unreasoning and irreversible_.' * * 'The elevation of a degraded
class of beings to the privileges of freemen, which, though
free, they can _never_ enjoy, and to the prospects of a happy
immortality.' * * 'They again most solemnly repeat to the free
colored people of Virginia their belief, that _in Africa alone_
can they enjoy that complete emancipation from a degrading
inequality, which in a greater or less degree pervades the
United States, if not in the laws, in the whole frame and
structure of society, and which in its effects on their moral
and social state is scarcely less degrading than slavery
itself.' - [African Repository, vol. iii. pp. 25, 26, 66, 68,
345.]


'But there is one large class among the inhabitants of this
country - degraded and miserable - whom none of the efforts in
which you are accustomed to engage, can materially benefit.
Among the twelve millions who make up our census, two millions
are Africans - separated from the possessors of the soil by
birth, _by the brand of indelible ignominy_, by prejudices,
mutual, deep, _incurable_, by an _irreconcileable diversity of
interests_. They are aliens and outcasts; - they are, as a body,
degraded beneath the influence of nearly all the motives which
prompt other men to enterprise, and almost below the sphere of
virtuous affections. Whatever may be attempted for the general
improvement of society, their wants are untouched. - Whatever may
be effected for elevating the mass of the nation in the scale of
happiness or of intellectual and moral character, their
degradation is the same - dark, and deep, and _hopeless_.
Benevolence seems to overlook them, or struggles for their
benefit in vain. Patriotism forgets them, or remembers them only
with shame for what has been, and with dire forebodings, of what
is yet to come.' * * 'It is taken _for granted_ that in present
circumstances, any effort to produce a general and thorough
amelioration in the character and condition of the free people
of color must be to a great extent fruitless. In every part of
the United States there is a broad and _impassible_ line of
demarcation between every man who has _one drop_ of African
blood in his veins and every other class in the community. The
habits, the feelings, all the prejudices of society - prejudices
which neither _refinement_, nor _argument_, nor _education_, nor
_religion_ itself can subdue - mark the people of color, whether
bond or free, as the subjects of a degradation _inevitable_ and
_incurable_. The African in this country belongs by birth to the
very lowest station in society; and from that station _he can
never rise_, BE HIS TALENTS, HIS ENTERPRISE, HIS VIRTUES WHAT
THEY MAY.... They constitute a class by themselves - a class out
of which _no individual can be elevated_, and below which, none
can be depressed. And this is the difficulty, the invariable and
insuperable difficulty in the way of every scheme for their
benefit. Much can be done for them - much has been done; but
still they are, and, _in this country_, ALWAYS MUST BE a
depressed and abject race.' - [African Repository, vol. iv. pp.
117, 118, 119.]


'The distinctive complexion by which it is marked, _necessarily_
debars it from all familiar intercourse with the more favored
society that surrounds it, and of course denies to it _all hope_
of either social or political elevation, by means of individual
merit, however great, or individual exertions, however
unremitted.' * * 'It is deemed unnecessary to repeat what has
already been said, of the character of the population in
question, of its _hopeless degradation_, and its baneful
influence, in the situation in which it is now placed.' * * *



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 17 of 29)