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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just made perfect in heaven, upon all who have experienced the love of
God in their souls here below, upon the christian converts in India and
the islands of the sea, to sustain me in the assertion that there _is_
power enough in the religion of Jesus Christ to melt down the most
stubborn prejudices, to overthrow the highest walls of partition, to
break the strongest caste, to improve and elevate the most degraded, to
unite in fellowship the most hostile, and to equalize and bless all its
recipients. Make me _sure_ that there is not, and I will give it up, now
and for ever. 'In Christ Jesus, all are one: there is neither Jew nor
Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor

These sentiments were not uttered by infidels, nor by worthless
wretches, but in many instances by professors of religion and _ministers
of the gospel_! and in almost every instance by reputedly the most
enlightened, patriotic and benevolent men in the land! Tell it not
abroad! publish it not in the streets of Calcutta! Even the eminent
President of Union College, (Rev. Dr. Nott,) could so far depart,
unguardedly I hope, from christian love and integrity, as to utter this
language in an address in behalf of the Colonization Society: - 'With us
they [the free people of color] have been degraded by slavery, and
_still further degraded by the mockery of nominal freedom_.' Were this
true, it would imply that we of the free States are more barbarous and
neglectful than even the traffickers in souls and men-stealers at the
south. We have not, it is certain, treated our colored brethren as the
law of kindness and the ties of brotherhood demand; but have we outdone
slaveholders in cruelty? Were it true, to forge new fetters for the
limbs of these degraded beings would be an act of benevolence. But their
condition is as much superior to that of the slaves, as happiness is to
misery. The second portion of this work, containing their proceedings in
a collective capacity, shows whether they have made any progress in
intelligence, in virtue, in piety, and in happiness, since their
liberation. Again he says: '_We have endeavored_, but endeavored in
vain, _to restore them either to self-respect, or to the respect of
others_.' It is painful to contradict so worthy an individual; but
nothing is more certain than that this statement is altogether
erroneous. We have derided, we have shunned, we have neglected them, in
every possible manner. They have had to rise not only under the
mountainous weight of their own ignorance and vice, but with the
additional and constant pressure of our contempt and injustice. In
despite of us, they have done well. Again: '_It is not our fault that we
have failed_; it is not theirs.' We _are_ wholly and exclusively in
fault. What have we done to raise them up from the earth? What have we
_not_ done to keep them down? Once more: 'It has resulted from a cause
over which neither they, nor we, can ever have control.' In other words,
they have been made with skins not colored like our own,' and
_therefore_ we cannot recognise them as fellow-countrymen, or treat them
like rational beings! One sixth of our whole population _must_, FOR
EVER, in this land, remain a wretched, ignorant and degraded race, - and
yet nobody be culpable - _none but the Creator_ who has made us
_incapable_ of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us!
Horrible - horrible! If this be not an impeachment of Infinite
Goodness, - I do not say intentionally but _really_, - I cannot define it.
The same sentiment is reiterated by a writer in the Southern Religious
Telegraph, who says - 'The exclusion of the free black from the civil and
literary privileges of our country, depends on another circumstance than
that of character - a circumstance, which, as it was entirely beyond his
control, so it is unchangeable, and will for ever operate. This
circumstance is - _he is a black man_'!! And the Board of Managers of the
Parent Society, in their Fifteenth Annual Report, declare that '_an
ordination of Providence_' prevents the general improvement of the
people of color in this land! How are God and our country dishonored,
and the requirements of the gospel contemned, by this ungodly plea!
Having satisfied himself that the Creator is alone blameable for the
past and present degradation of the free blacks, Dr. Nott draws the
natural and unavoidable inference that 'here, therefore, they must be
_for ever debased, for ever useless, for ever a nuisance, for ever a
calamity_,' and then gravely declares (mark the climax!) 'and yet THEY,
[these ignorant, helpless, miserable creatures!] AND THEY ONLY, are
qualified for colonizing Africa'!! 'Why then,' he asks, '_in the name of
God_,' - (the abrupt appeal, in this connexion, seems almost
profane,) - 'should we hesitate to encourage their departure?'

Nature, we are positively assured, has raised up impassable barriers
between the races. I understand by this expression, that the blacks are
of a different species from ourselves, so that all attempts to generate
offspring between us and them must prove as abortive, as between a man
and a beast. It is a law of Nature that the lion shall not beget the
lamb, or the leopard the bear. Now the planters at the south have
clearly demonstrated, that an amalgamation with their slaves is not only
possible, but a matter of course, and eminently productive. It neither
ends in abortion nor produces monsters. In truth, it is often so
difficult in the slave States to distinguish between the fruits of this
intercourse and the children of white parents, that witnesses are
summoned at court to solve the problem! Talk of the barriers of Nature,
when the land swarms with living refutations of the statement! Happy
indeed would it be for many a female slave, if such a barrier could
exist during the period of her servitude to protect her from the lust of
her master!

In France,[W] England,[X] Spain, and other countries, persons of color
maintain as high a rank and are treated as honorably as any other class
of the inhabitants, in despite of the 'impassable barriers of Nature.'
Yet it is proclaimed to the world by the Colonization Society, that the
American people can never be as republican in their feelings and
practices as Frenchmen, Spaniards or Englishmen! Nay, that _religion_
itself cannot subdue their malignant prejudices, or induce them to treat
their dark-skinned brethren in accordance with their professions of
republicanism! My countrymen! is it so? Are you willing thus to be held
up as tyrants and hypocrites for ever? as less magnanimous and just than
the populace of Europe? No - no! I cannot give you up as incorrigibly
wicked, nor my country as sealed over to destruction. My confidence
remains, like the oak - like the Alps - unshaken, storm-proof. I am not
discouraged - I am not distrustful. I still place an unwavering reliance
upon the omnipotence of truth. I still believe that the demands of
justice will be satisfied; that the voice of bleeding humanity will melt
the most obdurate hearts; and that the land will be redeemed and
regenerated by an enlightened and energetic public opinion. As long as
there remains among us a single copy of the Declaration of Independence,
or of the New Testament, I will not despair of the social and political
elevation of my sable countrymen. Already a rallying-cry is heard from
the East and the West, from the North and the South; towns and cities
and states are in commotion; volunteers are trooping to the field; the
spirit of freedom and the fiend of oppression are in mortal conflict,
and all neutrality is at an end. Already the line of division is drawn:
on one side are the friends of truth and liberty, with their banner
floating high in the air, on which are inscribed in letters of light,
BE DONE, THOUGH THE HEAVENS SHOULD FALL!' - On the opposite side stand
the supporters and apologists of slavery in mighty array, with a black
flag on which are seen in bloody characters, 'AFRICAN
BLACKS' - 'PROTECTION TO TYRANTS!' - Who can doubt the issue of this
controversy, or which side has the approbation of the Lord of Hosts?

In the African Repository for September, 1831, there is an elaborate
defence of the Colonization Society, in which occurs the following
passage: - 'It has been said that the Society is unfriendly to the
improvement of the free people of color while they remain in the United
States. _The charge is not true._' I reiterate the charge; and the
evidence of its correctness is before the reader. The Society prevents
the education of this class in the most insidious and effectual manner,
by constantly asserting that they must always be a degraded people in
this country, and that the cultivation of their minds will avail them
nothing. Who does not readily perceive that the prevalence of this
opinion must at once paralyze every effort for their improvement? For it
would be a waste of time and means, and unpardonable folly, for us to
attempt the accomplishment of an impossible work - of that which we know
will result in disappointment. Every discriminating and candid mind must
see and acknowledge, that, to perpetuate their ignorance, it is only
necessary to make the belief prevalent that they 'must be for ever
debased, for ever useless, for ever an inferior race,' and their
thraldom is sure.

I am aware that a school has been established for the education of
colored youth, under the auspices of the Society; but it is sufficient
to state that none but those who consent to emigrate to Liberia are
embraced in its provisions.

In the Appendix to the Seventh Annual Report, p. 94, the position is
assumed that 'it is a well established point, that the public safety
forbids either the emancipation or _general instruction_ of the slaves.'
The recent enactment of laws in some of the slave States, prohibiting
the instruction of free colored persons as well as slaves, has received
something more than a tacit approval from the organ of the Society. A
prominent advocate of the Society, (G. P. Disosway, Esq.,) in an oration
on the fourth of July, 1831, alluding to these laws, says, - 'The public
safety of our brethren at the South requires them [the slaves] to be
kept ignorant and uninstructed.' The Editor of the Southern Religious
Telegraph, who is a clergyman and a warm friend of the colonization
scheme, remarking upon the instruction of the colored population of
Virginia, says:

'Teaching a servant to read, is not teaching him the religion of
Christ. The great majority of the white people of our country
are taught to read; but probably not one in five, of those who
have the Bible, is _a christian_, in the legitimate sense of the
term. If black people are as depraved and as averse to true
religion as the white people are - and we know of no difference
between them in this respect - teaching them to read the Bible
will make christians of _very_ few of them. [What a plea!] ...
If christian masters were to teach their servants to read, we
apprehend that they would not feel the obligation as they ought
to feel it, of giving them oral instruction, and often
impressing divine truth on their minds. [!!] ... If the free
colored people were generally taught to read, _it might be an
inducement to them to remain in this country_. WE WOULD OFFER
THEM NO SUCH INDUCEMENT. [!!] ... A knowledge of letters and of
all the arts and sciences, cannot counteract the influences
under which the character of the negro _must_ be formed in this
country.... It appears to us that a greater benefit may be
conferred on the free colored people, by planting good schools
for them in Africa, and encouraging them to remove there, than
by giving them the knowledge of letters to make them contented
in their present condition.' - [Telegraph of Feb. 19, 1831.]

Jesuitism was never more subtle - Papal domination never more exclusive.
The gospel of peace and mercy preached by him who holds that ignorance
is the mother of devotion! who would sequestrate the bible from the eyes
of his fellow men! who contends that knowledge is the enemy of religion!
who denies the efficacy of education in elevating a degraded population!
who would make men brutes in order to make them better christians! who
desires to make the clergy infallible guides to heaven! Now what folly
and impiety is all this! Besides, is it not mockery to preach
repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to the benighted blacks,
and at the same time deny them the right and ability to 'search the
scriptures' for themselves?

The proposition which was made last year to erect a College for the
education of colored youth in New-Haven, it is well known, created an
extraordinary and most disgraceful tumult in that place, (the hot-bed of
African colonization,) and was generally scouted by the friends of the
Society in other places. The American Spectator at Washington, (next to
the African Repository, the mouth-piece of the Society,) used the
following language, in relation to the violent proceedings of the
citizens of New-Haven: 'We not only _approve the course_, which they
have pursued, but we _admire the moral courage_, which induced them,
_for the love of right_, (!) to incur the censure of both sections of
the country.'

As a farther illustration of the complacency with which colonizationists
regard the laws prohibiting the instruction of the blacks, I extract the
following paragraph from the 'Proceedings of the New-York State
Colonization Society, on its second anniversary:'

'It is the business of the free - _their safety requires it_ - to
keep the slaves in ignorance. Their education is utterly
prohibited. Educate them, and they break their fetters. Suppose
the slaves of the south to have the knowledge of freemen, they
would be free, or be exterminated by the whites. This renders it
necessary to prevent their instruction - to keep them from Sunday
Schools, and other means of gaining knowledge. But a few days
ago, a proposition was made in the legislature of Georgia, to
allow them so much instruction as to enable them to read the
bible; which was promptly rejected by a large majority. I do not
mention this for the purpose of _condemning the policy_ of the
slaveholding States, but to lament its _necessity_.'

Elias B. Caldwell, one of the founders, and the first Secretary of the
Parent Society, in a speech delivered at its formation, advanced the
following monstrous sentiments:

'The more you improve the condition of these people, the more
you cultivate their minds, the more _miserable_ you make them in
their present state. You give them a higher relish for those
privileges _which they can never attain_, and turn what you
intend for a blessing into a curse. No, if they must remain in
their present situation, _keep them in the lowest state of
ignorance and degradation_. The nearer you bring them to the
condition of _brutes_, the better chance do you give them of
possessing their apathy.'

So, then, the American Colonization Society advocates, and to a great
extent perpetuates the ignorance and degradation of the colored
population of the United States!

In a critical examination of the pages of the African Repository, and of
the reports and addresses of the Parent Society and its auxiliaries, I
cannot find in a single instance any impeachment of the conduct and
feelings of society toward the people of color, or any hint that the
prejudice which is so prevalent against them is unmanly and sinful, or
any evidence of contrition for past injustice, or any remonstrance or
entreaty with a view to a change of public sentiment, or any symptoms of
moral indignation at such unchristian and anti-republican treatment. On
the contrary, I find the doctrine every where inculcated that this
hatred and contempt, this abuse and proscription, are not only
excusable, but the natural, inevitable and incurable effects of
constitutional dissimilitude, growing out of an ordination of
Providence, for which there is no remedy but a separation between the
two races. If the free blacks, then, have been 'still further degraded
by the mockery of nominal freedom,' if they 'must always be a separate
and degraded race,' if 'degradation must and will press them to the
earth,' if from their present station 'they can never rise, be their
talents, their enterprise, their virtues what they may,' if 'in Africa
alone, they can enjoy the motives for honorable ambition,' the American
Colonization Society is responsible for their debasement and misery; for
as it numbers among its supporters the most influential men in our
country, and boasts of having the approbation of an overwhelming
majority of the wise and good whose examples are laws, it is able, were
it willing, to effect a radical change in public sentiment - nay, it is
at the present time public sentiment itself. But though it has done
much, and may do more, (all that it can it will do,) to depress,
impoverish and dispirit the free people of color, and to strengthen and
influence mutual antipathies, it is the purpose of God, I am fully
persuaded, to humble the pride of the American people by rendering the
expulsion of our colored countrymen utterly impracticable, and the
necessity for their admission to equal rights imperative. As neither
mountains of prejudice, nor the massy shackles of law and of public
opinion, have been able to keep them down to a level with slaves, I
confidently anticipate their exaltation among ourselves. Through the
vista of time, - a short distance only, - I see them here, not in Africa,
not bowed to the earth, or derided and persecuted as at present, not
with a downcast air or an irresolute step, but standing erect as men
destined heavenward, unembarrassed, untrammelled, with none to molest or
make them afraid.


[V] Walker's Appeal.

[W] Why is it that the free people of color are now, in almost every
part of our country, threatened with banishment from State to State, and
with hunting from city to city, until there shall be no place for the
soles of their feet in this their native land? Is it because they are in
reality, as slaveholders tell us, an inferior race of beings? No, my
friends: their consistent conduct, their polished manners, and their
great respectability, wherever they have enjoyed the advantages of
equality of education and equality of motives, proclaim the contrary.
The true cause of this almost universal prescription is to be found in
the melancholy fact that we have been guilty of the most atrocious
injustice to their forefathers and to themselves. We would therefore now
banish the evidence of our guilt from before our eyes: for whom a man
has injured, he is almost sure to hate. Some of the finest men I met
with, during a residence of three years in London and Paris, were the
offspring of African mothers. There no distinction is made in any grade
of society, on account of color. I have repeatedly seen black gentlemen
sitting on the sofas, conversing with the ladies, at the hospitable
mansion of that universal philanthropist, LAFAYETTE; and there were no
persons present who appeared more respectable, or who were more
respected. - [Address of Arnold Buffum, President of the New-England
Anti-Slavery Society, delivered in Boston, Feb. 16, 1832.]

[X] In England, it is common to see respectable and genteel people open
their pews when a black stranger enters the church; and at hotels,
nobody thinks it a degradation to have a colored traveller sit at the
same table. We have heard a well authenticated anecdote, which
illustrates the different state of feeling in the two countries on this
subject. A wealthy American citizen was residing at London for a season,
which time the famous Mr Prince Saunders was there. The London breakfast
hour is very late; and Prince Saunders happened to call upon the
American while his family were taking their morning repast. Politeness
and native good feelings prompted the lady to ask her guest to take a
cup of coffee - but then the _prejudices of society_ - how could she
overcome _them_? True, he was a gentleman in character, manners and
dress; but he had a black skin; and how could white skins sit at the
same table with him? If his _character_ had been as black as perdition,
the difficulty might have been overcome, however reluctantly; but his
_skin_ being black, it was altogether out of the question. So the lady
sipped her coffee, and Prince Saunders sat at the window, occasionally
speaking in reply to conversation addressed to him. At last all retired
from the breakfast table - and then the lady, with an air of sudden
recollection, said, 'I forgot to ask if you had breakfasted, Mr
Saunders! Won't you let me give you a cup of coffee?' 'I thank you,
madam,' he replied, with a dignified bow, 'I am engaged to breakfast
with the PRINCE REGENT this morning!'

We laugh at the narrow bigotry of the Mahometan, who feels contaminated
if a Christian shares his dinner, and who will not give his vile carcass
burial, for fear of pollution. Is our prejudice against persons of color
more rational or more just? The plain fact is, our prejudice has the
same foundation as that of the Mahometan - both are grounded in pride and
selfishness. A law has lately passed in Turkey, imposing a fine upon
whoever shall call a Christian a dog. _Let us try to keep pace with the
Turks in candor and benevolence._ - [Massachusetts Journal and Tribune.]



It is now about fifteen years since the American Colonization Society
sprang into existence - a space of time amply sufficient to test its
ability. In its behalf the pulpit and the press (two formidable engines)
have been exerted to an extraordinary degree; statesmen, and orators,
and judges, and lawyers, and philanthropists, have eloquently advocated
its claims to public patronage. During this protracted period, and with
such powerful auxiliaries, a careless observer might naturally suppose
that much must have been accomplished towards abolishing slavery. But
what is the fact? Less than one hundred and fifty souls have been
removed annually to Africa - in all, about two thousand souls in fifteen
years!! - a drop from the Atlantic ocean - a grain of earth from the
American continent! In the mean time, the increase of the slaves has
amounted to upwards of _half a million_! and every week more than _one
thousand_ new-born victims are added to their number. Before a vessel,
with one hundred and fifty passengers, can go to and return from Africa,
more than ten thousand slave infants will have been added to our
population: while she is preparing to depart, or waiting for a fair
wind, the increase will freight her many times.

The following eloquent and comprehensive Circular (published last year
in London by Capt. Charles Stuart, in consequence of the visit of
Elliott Cresson, an agent who was sent out to dupe the philanthropists
of England) exhibits the inefficiency and criminality of the Society in
a striking light:

formed in the United States, in 1817.

Its Thirteenth Annual Report has just reached this country.

Its object, as expressed by itself, (see the Thirteenth Report,
page 41, app. 9, art. 2,) "Is to promote and execute a plan for
colonizing the free people of color, residing in 'the United
States' in Africa, or such other place as Congress shall deem
most expedient."

The facts of the case are these:

1. That the United States have about 2,000,000 enslaved blacks.
2. That they have about 500,000 free blacks.
3. That both these classes are rapidly increasing.
4. That both are exceedingly depressed and degraded.

The duty of the United States to them, is the same exactly as we
owe to our colored fellow-subjects in our slave colonies, viz.
to obey God, by letting them go free, by placing them beneath
wise and equitable laws, and by loving them all, and treating
them like brethren; that is to say, the unquestionable duty of
the people of the United States is to emancipate their 2,000,000
slaves, and to raise the 500,000 free colored people to that

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 19 of 29)