Copyright
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

. (page 2 of 29)
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 2 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


about to conflict. If I had to encounter only men-stealers and
slaveholders, victory would be easy; but it is not the south alone that
is to be subdued. The whole nation is against me. Church after church is
to be converted, and the powerful influence of the clergy broken. The
friendship of good men is to be turned into enmity, and their support
into opposition. It is my task to change their admiration into
abhorrence; to convince them that their well-meant exertions have been
misdirected, and productive of greater evil than good; and to induce
them to abandon an institution to which they now fondly cling.

To those who neither fear God nor regard man - who have sworn eternal
animosity to their colored countrymen, and whose cry is, 'Away with
them, we do not want them here!' - I make no appeal. Disregarding as they
do that divine command, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' it
would be idle for me to direct my arguments to them. I address myself
to high-minded and honorable men, whose heads and hearts are susceptible
to the force of sound logic. I appeal to those, who have been redeemed
from the bondage of sin by the precious blood of Christ, and with whom I
hope to unite in a better world in ascribing glory, and honor, and
praise to the Great Deliverer for ever. If I can succeed in gaining
their attention, I feel sure of convincing their understandings and
securing their support.

Besides the overwhelming odds which are opposed to me, I labor under
other very serious disadvantages. My efforts in the cause of
emancipation have been received as if they were intended to bring chaos
back again, and to give the land up to pillage and its inhabitants to
slaughter. My calls for an alteration in the feelings and practices of
the people toward the blacks have been regarded as requiring a sacrifice
of all the rules of propriety, and as seeking an overthrow of the
established laws of nature! I have been thrust into prison, and amerced
in a heavy fine. Epithets, huge and unseemly, have been showered upon me
without mercy. I have been branded as a fanatic, a madman, a disturber
of the peace, an incendiary, a cutthroat, a monster, &c. &c. &c.
Assassination has been threatened me in a multitude of anonymous
letters. Private and public rewards to a very large amount, by
combinations of individuals and by legislative bodies at the south, have
been offered to any persons who shall abduct or destroy me. 'Yea, mine
own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath
lifted up his heel against me.' This malignity of opposition and
proximity of danger, however, are like oil to the fire of my zeal. I am
not deliriously enthusiastic - I do not covet to be a martyr; but I had
rather die a thousand deaths, than witness the horrible oppression under
which more than two millions of my countrymen groan, _and be silent_. No
reproaches, no dangers shall deter me. At the north or the south, at the
east or the west, - wherever Providence may call me, - my voice shall be
heard in behalf of the perishing slave, and against the claims of his
oppressor. Mine is the frank avowal of the excellent WILBERFORCE: - I can
admit of no compromise when the commands of equity and philanthropy are
so imperious. I wash my hands of the blood that may be spilled. I
protest against the system, as the most flagrant violation of every
principle of justice and humanity. I NEVER WILL DESERT THE CAUSE. In my
task it is impossible to tire: it fills my mind with complacency and
peace. At night I lie down with composure, and rise to it in the morning
with alacrity. I NEVER WILL DESIST FROM THIS BLESSED WORK.

Now that the concentrated execration of the civilized world is poured
upon those who engage in the foreign slave trade, how mild and
inefficient, comparatively speaking, seem to have been the rebukes of
Pitt, and Fox, and Wilberforce, and Clarkson! Yet these rebukes were
once deemed fanatical and outrageous by good men - yea, like flames of
fire, threatening a universal conflagration! So the denunciations which
I am now hurling against slavery and its abettors, - which seem to many
so violent and unmerited, - will be considered moderate, pertinent and
just, when this murderous, soul-destroying system shall have been
overthrown.

Fanaticism has been the crime alleged against reformers in all ages.
'These,' it was said of the apostles, 'that have turned the world upside
down, come hither also.' Luther was a madman in his day: what is he now
in the estimation of the friends of civil and religious liberty? One of

'Those starry lights of virtue, that diffuse
Through the dark depths of time their vivid flame.'

That base and desperate men should thus stigmatize those who endure the
cross as good soldiers, and walk as pilgrims and strangers here, is not
wonderful; but that the professed followers of Jesus Christ should join
in this hue-and-cry is lamentable. Singular enough, I have been almost
as cruelly aspersed by ministers of the gospel and church members, as by
any other class of men. Unacquainted with me, and ignorant of my
sentiments, they have readily believed the accusations of my enemies.
The introduction of my name into conversation has elicited from them
contemptuous sneers or strong denunciations. I have a right to complain
of this treatment, and I do strongly protest against it as unchristian,
hurtful and ungenerous. To prejudge and condemn an individual, on vague
and apocryphal rumors, without listening to his defence or examining
evidence, is tyranny. Perhaps I am in error - perhaps I deserve
unqualified condemnation; but I am at least entitled to a privilege
which is granted to the vilest criminals, namely, the privilege of a
fair trial. I ask nothing more. To accuse me of heresy, madness and
sedition, is one thing; to substantiate the accusation, another.

Should this work chance to fall into the hands of those who have thus
ignorantly reprobated my course, I appeal to their sense of rectitude
whether they are not bound to give it a candid and deliberate perusal;
and if they shall find in my writings nothing contrary to the immutable
principles of justice, whether they ought not to be as strenuous in my
defence as they have been hitherto in seeking my overthrow.

To show that I do not vacate any pledge which I have given to the
public, I shall here insert all the specifications, which, from time to
time, I have brought against the American Colonization Society. In 'The
Liberator' of April 23, 1831, is the following serious compend:

'I am prepared to show, that those who have entered into this
CONSPIRACY AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS are unanimous in abusing their
victims; unanimous in their mode of attack; unanimous in
proclaiming the absurdity, that our free blacks are natives of
Africa; unanimous in propagating the libel, that they cannot be
elevated and improved in this country; unanimous in opposing
their instruction; unanimous in exciting the prejudices of the
people against them; unanimous in apologising for the crime of
slavery; unanimous in conceding the right of the planters to
hold their slaves in a limited bondage; unanimous in their
hollow pretence for colonizing, namely, to evangelize Africa;
unanimous in their _true motive_ for the measure - a terror lest
the blacks should rise to avenge their accumulated wrongs. It is
a conspiracy to send the free people of color to Africa under a
benevolent pretence, but really that the slaves may be held more
securely in bondage. It is a conspiracy based upon fear,
oppression and falsehood, which draws its aliment from the
prejudices of the people, which is sustained by duplicity, which
really upholds the slave system, which fascinates while it
destroys, which endangers the safety and happiness of the
country, which no precept of the bible can justify, which is
implacable in its spirit, which should be annihilated at a blow.

'These are my accusations; and if I do not substantiate them, I
am willing to be covered with reproach.'

The following is copied from an editorial article of July 9, 1831:

'The superstructure of the Colonization Society rests upon the
following pillars:

'1st. _Persecution._ It declares that the whole colored
population must be removed to Africa; but as the free portion
are almost _unanimously_ opposed to a removal, it seems to be
the determination of the Society to make their situations so
uncomfortable and degraded here, as to compel them to migrate:
consequently it discourages their education and improvement in
this their native home. This is persecution.

'2d. _Falsehood._ It stigmatises our colored citizens as being
natives of Africa, and talks of sending them to their native
land; when they are no more related to Africa than we are to
Great Britain.

'3d. _Cowardice._ It avows as a prominent reason why colored
citizens ought to be removed, that their continuance among us
will be dangerous to us as a people! This is a libel upon their
character. Instead of demanding justice for this oppressed
class, the Society calls for their removal!

'4th. _Infidelity._ It boldly denies that there is power enough
in the gospel to melt down the prejudices of men, and insists,
that, so long as the people of color remain among us, _we must
be their enemies!_ - Every honest man should abhor the doctrine.'

In 'The Liberator' of July 30, 1831, alluding to the present work, I
used the following language:

'I shall be willing to stake my reputation upon it for honesty,
prudence, benevolence, truth and sagacity. If I do not prove the
Colonization Society to be a creature without heart, without
brains, eyeless, unnatural, hypocritical, relentless, unjust,
then nothing is capable of demonstration - then let me be covered
with confusion of face.'

The following paragraph is extracted from 'The Liberator' of November
19, 1831:

'It is the enemy of immediate restitution to the slaves; it
courts and receives the approbation of notorious slave owners;
it deprecates any interference with slave property; it
discourages the improvement of the colored population, except
they are removed to the shores of Africa; it is lulling the
country into a fatal sleep, pretending to be something when it
is nothing; it is utterly chimerical, as well as intolerant, in
its design; it serves to increase the value of the slaves, and
to make brisk the foreign and domestic slave trade; it nourishes
and justifies the most cruel prejudices against color; it sneers
at those who advocate the bestowal of equal rights upon our
colored countrymen; it contends for an indefinite, dilatory,
far-off emancipation; it expressly declares that it is more
humane to keep the slaves in chains, than to give them freedom
in this country! In short, it is the most compendious and best
adapted scheme to uphold the slave system that human ingenuity
can invent. Moreover, it is utterly and irreconcileably opposed
to the wishes and sentiments of the great body of the free
people of color, repeatedly expressed in the most public manner,
but cruelly disregarded by it.'

The following passages are taken from my Address to the People of Color,
delivered in various places in June, 1831:

'Let me briefly examine the doctrines of colonizationists. They
generally agree in publishing the misstatement, that you are
strangers and foreigners. Surely they know better. They know,
that, as a body, you are no more natives of Africa, than they
themselves are natives of Great Britain. Yet they repeat the
absurd charge; and they do so, in order to cover their
anti-republican crusade. But suppose you were foreigners: would
such an accident justify this persecution and removal? And, if
so, then all foreigners must come under the same ban, and must
prepare to depart. There would be, in that case, a most alarming
deduction from our population. Suppose a philanthropic and
religious crusade were got up against the Dutch, the French, the
Swiss, the Irish, among us, to remove them to New Holland, to
enlighten and civilize her cannibals? Who would not laugh at the
scheme - who would not actively oppose it? Would any one blame
the above classes for steadfastly resisting it? Just so, then,
in regard to African colonization. But our colored population
are not aliens; they were born on our soil; they are bone of our
bone, and flesh of our flesh; their fathers fought bravely to
achieve our independence during the revolutionary war, without
immediate or subsequent compensation; they spilt their blood
freely during the last war; they are entitled, in fact, to every
inch of our southern, and much of our western territory, having
worn themselves out in its cultivation, and received nothing but
wounds and bruises in return. Are these the men to stigmatize as
foreigners?

'Colonizationists generally agree in asserting that the people
of color cannot be elevated in this country, nor be admitted to
equal privileges with the whites. Is not this a libel upon
humanity and justice - a libel upon republicanism - a libel upon
the Declaration of Independence - a libel upon christianity? "All
men are born equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights - among which are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness." What is the meaning of that declaration?
That _all_ men possess these rights - whether they are six feet
five inches high, or three feet two and a half - whether they
weigh three hundred or one hundred pounds - whether they parade
in broadcloth or flutter in rags - whether their skins are jet
black or lily white - whether their hair is straight or woolly,
auburn or red, black or gray - does it not? We, who are present,
differ from each other in our looks, in our color, in height,
and in bulk; we have all shades, and aspects, and sizes. Now,
would it not be anti-republican and anti-christian for us to
quarrel about sitting on this seat or that, because this man's
complexion is too dark, or that man's looks are too ugly? and to
put others out of the house, because they happen to be ignorant,
or poor, or helpless? To commit this violence would be evidently
wrong: then to do it in a large assemblage - in a community, in a
state, or in a nation, it is equally unjust. But is not this
the colonization principle? Who are the individuals that
applaud, that justify, that advocate this exclusion? Who are
they that venture to tell the American people, that they have
neither honesty enough, nor patriotism enough, nor morality
enough, nor religion enough, to treat their colored brethren as
countrymen and citizens? Some of them - I am sorry to say - are
professedly ministers of the gospel; others are christian
professors; others are judges and lawyers; others are our
Senators and Representatives; others are editors of newspapers.
These ministers and christians dishonor the gospel which they
profess; these judges and lawyers are the men spoken of by the
Saviour, who bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and
lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move
them with one of their fingers. These Senators and
Representatives ought not to receive the suffrages of the
people. These editors are unworthy of public patronage.

'Colonizationists too generally agree in discouraging your
instruction and elevation at home. They pretend that ignorance
is bliss; and therefore 'tis folly to be wise. They pretend that
knowledge is a dangerous thing in the head of a colored man;
they pretend that you have no ambition; they pretend that you
have no brains; in fine, they pretend a thousand other absurd
things - they are a combination of pretences. What tyranny is
this! Shutting up the human intellect - binding with chains the
inward man - and perpetuating ignorance. May we not address them
in the language of Christ? "Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees,
hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men:
for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are
entering to go in! Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin,
and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment,
mercy and faith."

'Colonizationists generally agree in apologising for the crime
of slavery. They get behind the contemptible subterfuge, that it
was entailed upon the planters. As if the continuance of the
horrid system were not criminal! as if the robberies of another
generation justify the robberies of the present! as if the
slaves had not an inalienable right to freedom! as if slavery
were not an individual as well as a national crime! as if the
tearing asunder families, limb from limb, - branding the flesh
with red hot irons, - mangling the body with whips and
knives, - feeding it on husks and clothing it with
rags, - crushing the intellect and destroying the soul, - as if
such inconceivable cruelty were not chargeable to those who
inflict it!

'As to the effect of colonization upon slavery, it is rather
favorable than injurious to the system. Now and then, indeed,
there is a great flourish of trumpets, and glowing accounts of
the willingness of planters to emancipate their slaves on
condition of transportation to Africa. Now and then a slave is
actually manumitted and removed, and the incident is dwelt upon
for months. Why, my friends, hundreds of worn-out slaves are
annually turned off to die, like old horses. No doubt their
masters will thank the Colonization Society, or any one else, to
send them out of the country; especially as they will gain much
glorification in the newspapers, for their _disinterested_
sacrifices. Let no man be deceived by these manoeuvres.

'My time is consumed - and yet I have scarcely entered upon the
threshold of my argument. Now, what a spectacle is presented to
the world! - the American people, boasting of their free and
equal rights - of their abhorrence of aristocratical
distinctions - of their republican equality; proclaiming on every
wind, "that all men are born _equal_, and endowed with certain
inalienable _rights_," and that this land is an asylum for the
persecuted of all nations; and yet as loudly proclaiming that
they are determined to deprive millions of their own countrymen
of every political and social right, and to send them to a
barbarous continent, because the Creator has given them a sable
complexion. Where exists a more rigorous despotism? What
conspiracy was ever more cruel? What hypocrisy and
tergiversation so enormous? The story is proclaimed in our
pulpits, in our state and national assemblies, in courts of law,
in religious and secular periodicals, - among all parties, and in
all quarters of the country, - that there is a _moral incapacity_
in the people to do justly, love mercy, and to walk
uprightly - that they must always be the enemies and oppressors
of the colored people - that no love of liberty, no dictate of
duty, no precept of republicanism, no dread of retribution, no
claim of right, no injunction of the gospel, can possibly
persuade them to do unto their colored countrymen, as they would
that they should do unto them in a reversal of circumstances.
Now, to these promulgators of unrighteousness, with the
Declaration of Independence in one hand, and the Bible in the
other, I fearlessly give battle. Rich and mighty and numerous as
they are, by the help of the Lord I will put them to open shame.
They shall not libel me, they shall not libel my country, with
impunity. They shall not make our boasted republicanism a
by-word and a hissing among all nations, nor sink the christian
religion below heathen idolatry; and if they persist in
publishing their scandalous proclamations, they shall be
labelled as the enemies of their species and of the republic,
and treated accordingly.

'The Colonization Society, therefore, instead of being a
philanthropic and religious institution, is anti-republican and
anti-christian in its tendency. Its pretences are false, its
doctrines odious, its means contemptible. If we are to send away
the colored population because they are profligate and vicious,
what sort of missionaries will they make? Why not send away the
vicious among the whites, for the same reason and the same
purpose? If ignorance be a crime, where shall we begin to
select? How much must a man know to save him from
transportation? How white must he be? If we send away a mixed
breed, how many will be left? If foreigners only, then the
people of color must remain - for they are our countrymen. Would
foreigners submit? No - not for an instant. Why should the
American people make this enormous expenditure of life and
money? Why not use the funds of the Society to instruct and
elevate our colored population at home? This would be rational
and serviceable. Instead of removing men from a land of
civilization and knowledge - of schools, and seminaries, and
colleges - to give them instruction in a land of darkness and
desolation - would it not be wiser and better to reverse the
case, and bring the ignorant here for cultivation?'

The foregoing accusations are grave, weighty, positive - involving a
perilous responsibility, and requiring ample and irrefragable proof.
They are expressed in vehement terms: but to measure the propriety of
language, we must first examine the character of the system, or the
nature of the object, against which it is directed. If we see a person
wilfully abusing the goods of an individual, we may reprehend him, but
with comparative mildness. If we see him maiming, or in any way
maltreating another man's cattle, we may increase the severity of our
rebuke. But if we see him violating all the social and sacred relations
of life, - daily defrauding a number of his fellow creatures of the
fruits of their toil, calling them his property, selling them for money,
lacerating their bodies, and ruining their souls, - we may use the
strongest terms of moral indignation. Nor is plain and vehement
denunciation of crime inconsistent with the most benevolent feelings
towards the perpetrators of it. We are sustained in these positions by
the example of Christ, and the apostles, and the prophets, and the
reformers.

So, also, if there be an institution, the direct tendency of which is to
perpetuate slavery, to encourage persecution, and to invigorate
prejudice, - although many of its supporters may be actuated by pure
motives, - it ought to receive unqualified condemnation.

It is proper to call things by their right names. What does the law term
him who steals your pocket-book, or breaks into your dwelling, or strips
you on the highway? A robber! Is the charge inflammatory or unjust? or
will it please the villain? The abuse of language is seen only in its
misapplication. Those who object to the strength of my denunciation must
prove its perversion before they accuse me of injustice.

Probably I may be interrogated by individuals, - 'Why do you object to a
colony in Africa? Are you not willing people should choose their own
places of residence? And if the blacks are willing to remove, why throw
obstacles in their path or deprecate their withdrawal? All go
_voluntarily_: of what, then, do you complain? Is not the colony at
Liberia in a flourishing condition, and expanding beyond the most
sanguine expectations of its founders?'

Pertinent questions deserve pertinent answers. I say, then, in reply,
that I do not object to a colony, _in the abstract_ - to use the popular
phraseology of the day. In other words, I am entirely willing men
should be as free as the birds in choosing the time when, the mode how,
and the place where they shall migrate. The power of locomotion was
given to be used at will; as beings of intelligence and enterprise,

'The world is all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.'

The emigration from New-England to the far West is constant and large.



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 2 of 29)