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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take so active a part, in endeavoring to convey the freemen of
color to Africa. Even in Boston and New-York, they have taken
the lead in support of this object. They cannot be aware of the
great injury they will be the means of inflicting on us: instead
of doing this, they should endeavor to remove prejudice, to
ameliorate and improve the condition of the colored people by
education, and by having their children placed in a situation to
learn a trade. I hope, through the assistance of Divine
Providence, that the Liberator may be the means (especially in
Boston, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence) of guiding the
people of this country in the path, which equal justice and the
public good so evidently indicate.

'I have never conversed with an intelligent man of color, (not
swayed by interested and sinister motives,) who was not
decidedly opposed to leaving his home for the fatal clime of
Africa. I am well acquainted with all the masters of vessels,
belonging to this port, who have been to the coast of Africa;
and they all agree in representing it as one of the most
unhealthy countries in the latitude of 40. In the months of June
and July, the thermometer is at from 88 to 90 degrees. What must
it be, then, in the latitude of 6 or 7, under a vertical sun,
and where, after the rainy season, the effluvium which arises
from the putrefaction of vegetables is productive of the most
fatal effects? Sir James L. Yeo agrees with their account, in
his statement laid before the Admiralty of Great Britain.

'Has any one, in either of our southern States, given any thing
like a thousand dollars to promote emigration to Africa? Not one
has shown so much compassion for the oppressed slave. General
Mercer, - who is, I believe, the President of the Colonization
Society, - promised to emancipate his slaves, and to sell his
large possessions in Virginia, and to remove with them to
Africa - (my friends inform me, and I believe him to be one of
the most humane and best of masters.) Mr Key, the great
advocate, and the late Judge Washington, promised to liberate
their slaves: I believe that neither of them has performed his

'According to a statement made by Mr Key, they have removed in
fourteen years about as many hundred emigrants. I will venture
to say, that at least a half million have been born during the
same period. We ask not their compassion and aid, in assisting
us to emigrate to Africa: we are contented in the land that gave
us birth, and for which many of our fathers fought and died,
during the war which established our independence. I well
remember that when the New England regiment marched through this
city on their way to attack the English army under the command
of Lord Cornwallis, there were several companies of colored
people, as brave men as ever fought; and I saw those brave
soldiers who fought at the battle of Red Bank, under Col. Green,
where Count Donop the commander was killed, and the Hessians
defeated. All this appears to be forgotten now; and the
descendants of these men, to whom we are indebted for the part
they took in the struggle for independence, are intended to be
removed to a distant and inhospitable country, while the
emigrants from every other country are permitted to seek an
asylum here from oppression, and to enjoy the blessings of both
civil and religious liberty, equally with those who are entitled
to it by birthright.

'I think the ministers of the gospel might do much towards
destroying the domestic slave trade, which breaks asunder the
sacred ties of husband, wife and children. Not a voice is
raised by them against this most cruel injustice. In the British
colonies, this is not permitted; yet it exists in the only true
republic on earth.'[AR]

'_My Friends and Countrymen_: - I trust, by this time, you have
known well my sentiments in relation to the American
Colonization Society; and the great objects, which have been set
forth, of a general union of interest, in funds and education,
for the permanent establishment and furtherance of our
prosperity, in this our native country.

'In addition to what has been already said on the subject, I
shall briefly set forth some of the leading causes of our
wretchedness and misery; and the prominent motives of the
Colonization Society in sending us away. Much theory has been
used, in the discussions upon our civil and political situation,
in this country. We have been branded, in many instances, - may I
not say, in the highest courts of the nation, courts of justice
and equity, in public and family circles? - as being an inferior
race of beings, not possessing like intellect and faculty with
the whites. We are represented as being incapable of acting for
ourselves; consequently not educated and qualified to be
admitted into public places, to vindicate the integrity of our
race, and the qualifications we are capable of acquiring. Many
of our noble statesmen, orators and lawyers, have made our
capital ring with the empty sound of
inferiority, - degradation, - the impossibility of tolerating
equality with the blacks. Sacred writ has been carefully
examined by these gentlemen of science, and construed to suit
their narrow consciences. Prophets have arisen among them, who
hold forth to the people the continuation of our political
thraldom, unless there be a general removal of all the free
among us to the coast of Africa. Others argue, that, although
they have good feelings towards us, and would do any thing for
us, if we were out of their sight and out of the hearing of
their slaves, yet to admit us into their circles would be to
pervert the present order of society, and the happiness of the
good white citizens of the country. These are generally bible
men, such as hold forth the true oracles of God; yet deny him,
in their actions and words, the supreme control over all his
creatures. There is hardly ever an action performed, whether
good or bad, but there is generally a reason given for so doing;
and he is a wicked, daring character, who cannot find a cloak,
at any time, to cover his hideous crimes. The men who have been
foremost, in withholding from us our dearest and most sacred
rights, have always held out false colors to the community at
large, (such as, inferiority, degradation, nuisance, pest,
slaves, species of monkey, apes, &c.) to justify their inhuman
and unchristian acts towards us, and to deaden the severe pangs
of conscience that harass them. They would wish to appear
innocent before the world; as doing unto all men as they would
they should do unto them. Do they base their objects, in full,
upon such frivolous excuses as these? No. The truth is, actions
speak louder than words. It is my candid opinion, there would
have been no Colonization Society formed for our transportation
to the western coast of Africa, had there been no free colored
people, and did not our numbers increase daily. If we, as a free
body of people, had remained in the same character with slaves,
monkeys and baboons, there would not have been so much
excitement in the community about us; but as they see by our
improvement, (a great improvement, indeed, within forty years,)
that the period is hastening on, 'when there will be no other
alternative but we must rank among them in civilization, science
and politics, they have got up this colonization scheme to
persuade us to leave our slave brethren, and flee to the
pestilential shores of Africa, where we shall be in danger of
being forced to hang our harps upon the willows, and our song of
liberty and civilization will be hushed by the impelling force
of barbarian despots.'[AS]

'And in pursuit of this great object [the elevation of the
people of color] various ways and means have been resorted to;
among others, the American Colonization Society is the most
prominent. Not doubting the sincerity of many friends who are
engaged in that cause; yet we beg leave to say, that it does not
meet with our approbation. However great the debt which these
United States may owe to injured Africa, and however unjustly
her sons have been made to bleed, and her daughters to drink of
the cup of affliction, still we who have been born and nurtured
on this soil, we, whose habits, manners and customs are the same
in common with other Americans, can never consent to take our
lives in our hands, and be the bearers of the redress offered by
that Society to that much afflicted country.

'Tell it not to barbarians, lest they refuse to be civilized,
and eject our Christian missionaries from among them, that in
the nineteenth century of the christian era, laws have been
enacted in some of the States of this great republic, to compel
an unprotected and harmless portion of our brethren to leave
their homes and seek an asylum in foreign climes: and in taking
a view of the unhappy situation of many of these, whom the
oppressive laws alluded to, continually crowd into the Atlantic
cities, dependent for their support upon their daily labor, and
who often suffer for want of employment, we have had to lament
that no means have yet been devised for their relief.'[AT]

'The Convention has not been unmindful of the operations of the
American Colonization Society; and it would respectfully suggest
to that august body of learning, talent and worth, that, in our
humble opinion, strengthened, too, by the opinions of eminent
men in this country, as well as in Europe, that they are
pursuing the direct road to perpetuate slavery, with all its
unchristianlike concomitants, in this boasted land of freedom;
and, as citizens and men whose best blood is sapped to gain
popularity for that Institution, we would, in the most feeling
manner, beg of them to desist: or, if we must be sacrificed to
their philanthropy, we would rather die at home. Many of our
fathers, and some of us, have fought and bled for the liberty,
independence and peace which you now enjoy; and, surely, it
would be ungenerous and unfeeling in you to deny us a humble and
quiet grave in that country which gave us birth!'[AU]

'Sir, upon the whole, my view of the operations of the
Colonization Society, in relieving the slave States of the evil
which weighs them down more than a hundred tariffs, is
illustrated by an old fable, in which it is stated, that a man
was seen at the foot of a mountain, scraping away the dust with
his foot. One passing by, asked him what he was doing? I wish to
remove this mountain, said he. You fool, replied the other, you
can never do it in that way. Well, said he, I can raise a dust,
can't I?

'Sir, I do not wish to censure the motives of this Society, but
surely they are visionary. Its supporters are bewildered in
their own dust, which is well calculated to injure the vision of
good men. The Commercial Advertiser says they do indeed wish to
wipe away from the national records the stain of slavery, "but
hope it may be accomplished (as the Virginia Enquirer has it)
surely but quietly." Yes, Sir, and quietly enough!

'Our ambition leads not to superiority, but to our _freedom_ and
_political rights_. _Grant this!_ we ask no more! If the places
in which we dwell are too straight for us and the white
population, place us in a state far to the West - take us
into the Union - give us our _rights_ as _freemen_. Let the
southern states make all born after a date not two years
distant, free! and let the Colonization Society turn its
attention and energies to the removing of liberated slaves
there: the free people will go without their aid. But if the
Government is fearful of retaliation, it may allay its fears by
a consideration of the fact of there not being one freeman
engaged in the late insurrections - of freemen informing against
slaves - the peaceable manner in which we live in the
neighborhoods of the south, and throughout the whole Union. The
meetings that have lately been held, and resolutions passed
expressive of our disapprobation of such measures, may all show
that such fears are groundless. I repeat again - _Give us our
rights - we ask no more!_

'Yes, Sir, if I possessed the Indies, I would pledge the whole
that if such measures were taken, and such grants made, no
retaliation would be made by us as a body for former evils.'[AV]

'In no age of our existence have there been more pains taken by
priests and people, in public and private, in church and state,
to give them currency, than at present. The whole theme of that
wicked, persecuting combination - the Colonization Society - is
calculated to impress upon the mind of the public these
atrocious maxims which every day strengthen a prejudice not only
cherished by the whites against the blacks, but by the blacks
against the whites. That foul fiend of hell, that destroying
angel who hath power to take peace from the earth, and to kill
with the sword, is gaining a commanding influence very fast over
both parties. And who, but the advocates of the Colonization
Society, receive him as a welcome guest? Who but they have built
him a temple, and cried, "Long live Prejudice against free born
Americans of sable hue!" Who but they are continually crying,
"The free blacks are dangerous! the free blacks are dangerous!
Away with them - away with them to Africa!" Who but they are the
apologists for murder, theft, and all the horrid concomitants of
slavery? Who but they have defiled our temples of worship
dedicated to God for his service, making merchandise of the
souls of men by transferring them over to the keeping of

Other extracts might be recorded, but these must suffice. I have given
the sentiments of the people of color as expressed individually, in
public orations, in conventions of delegates, and in popular assemblies.
Their proceedings evince a keen discrimination between true and false
philanthropy, and an intellectual ability successfully to defend their
cause. Their instincts are more than a match for the specious sophistry
and learned sense of colonizationists: they meet them on every point,
and on every point achieve a victory. Conscious of the fact that in
their complexion is found the only motive for their banishment, they
clearly illustrate the hypocrisy and injustice of the African crusade.
Their union of purpose is such as cannot be broken. How intense is their
love of country! how remarkable their patient endurance of wrongs! how
strong their abhorrence of expatriation! how auspicious the talents
which they display!

Every humane and honorable man will assent to the proposition, that no
scheme for the removal of a numerous people from one continent to
another, ought to be prosecuted contrary to their desires. A scheme
cannot be benevolent which thrives upon persecution. Benevolent
oppression is a solecism.

Another self-evident truth is, that no such removal can be effected
merely by the presentation of selfish inducements, or without resorting
to coercive measures. To show that coercion is openly advocated by some
of the prominent supporters of the Colonization Society, I make the
following extracts from the speeches of Messrs Broadnax and Fisher,
delivered during the 'Great Debate' in the Virginia House of Delegates a
short time since. Mr Broadnax said:

must look to the introduction of force of some kind or
other - and it is in truth a question of expediency; of moral
justice; of political good faith - whether we shall fairly
delineate our whole system on the face of the bill, or leave the
acquisition of extorted consent to other processes. The real
question - the only question of magnitude to be settled, is the
great preliminary question - Do you intend to send the free
persons of color out of Virginia, or not?'

'If the free negroes are willing to go, they will go - if not
willing, they must be compelled to go. Some gentlemen think it
politic not now to insert this feature in the bill, though they
proclaim their readiness to resort to it when it becomes
necessary; they think that for a year or two a sufficient number
will consent to go, and then the rest can be compelled. For my
part, I deem it better to approach the question and settle it at
once, and avow it openly. The intelligent portion of the free
negroes know very well what is going on. - Will they not see your
debates? _Will they not see that coercion is ultimately to be
resorted to?_ They will perceive that the edict has gone forth,
and that it must fall, if not now, in a short time upon them.'

'I have already expressed it as my opinion that few, very few,
will _voluntarily_ consent to emigrate, if no COMPULSORY MEASURE
be adopted. - With it - many, in anticipation of its sure and
certain arrival, will, in the mean time, go away - they will be
sensible that the time would come when they would be forced to
leave the State. Without it - you will still, no doubt, have
applicants for removal equal to your means. Yes, Sir, people who
will not only consent, but beg you to deport them. But what sort
of _consent_ - a consent extorted by a series of oppression
calculated to render their situation among us insupportable.
Many of those who have already been sent off, went with _their
avowed consent_, but under the influence of a more decided
compulsion than any which this bill holds out. I will not
express, in its full extent, the idea I entertain of what has
been done, or what enormities will be perpetrated to induce this
class of persons to leave the State. Who does not know that when
a free negro, by crime or otherwise, has rendered himself
obnoxious to a neighborhood, how easy it is for a party to visit
him one night, take him from his bed and family, and apply to
him the gentle admonition of a severe flagellation, to induce
him to _consent_ to go away? In a few nights the dose can be
repeated, perhaps increased, until, in the language of the
physicians, _quantum suff._ has been administered to produce the
desired operation; and the fellow then becomes _perfectly
willing_ to move away. I have certainly heard, if incorrectly,
the gentleman from Southampton will put me right, that of the
large cargo of emigrants lately transported from that country to
Liberia, all of whom _professed_ to be _willing_ to go, were
rendered so by some such severe ministrations as those I have
described. A lynch club - a committee of vigilance - could easily
exercise a kind of inquisitorial _surveillance_ over any
neighborhood, and convert any desired number, I have no doubt,
at any time, into a willingness to be removed. But who really
prefers such means as these to the course proposed in this bill?
And one or the other is inevitable. For no matter how you change
this bill - sooner or later the free negroes will be _forced_ to
leave the State. Indeed, Sir, ALL OF US LOOK TO FORCE of some
kind or other, direct or indirect, moral or physical, legal or
illegal. Many who are opposed, they say, to any compulsory
feature in the bill, desire to introduce such severe regulations
into our police laws - such restrictions of their existing
privileges - such inability to hold property - obtain
employment - rent residences, &c., as to make it impossible for
them to remain amongst us. _Is not this force?_'

Mr Fisher said:

'If we wait until the free negroes consent to leave the State,
we shall wait until "time is no more." _They never will give
their consent_; and if the House amend the bill as proposed,
their consent is in a manner pointed out by the gentleman from
Dinwiddie - and it is a great question whether we shall force the
people to extort their consent from them in this way. - He
believed if the compulsory principle were stricken out, this
class of people would be forced to leave by the harsh treatment
of the whites. The people in those parts of the State where they
most abound, were determined, - as far as they could learn
through the newspapers and other sources, - to get rid of the

What a revelation, what a confession, is here! The free blacks taken
from their beds, and severely flagellated, to make them willing to
emigrate! And legislative compulsion openly advocated to accomplish this
nefarious project! Yes, the gentlemen say truly, 'few, very few will
_voluntarily_ consent to emigrate' - 'they never will give their
consent' - and therefore they must be expelled by force! It is true, the
bill proposed by Mr Broadnax was rejected by a small majority; but it
serves to illustrate the spirit of the colonization leaders.

The editor of the Lynchburg Virginian, an advocate of the Society, uses
the following language:

'But, if they will not consider for themselves, WE _must
consider for them_. The safety of the people is the supreme law;
and to that law all minor considerations must bend. If the free
negroes will not emigrate, _they must be contented to endure
those privations which the public interest and safety call
for_. - In the last Richmond Enquirer we notice an advertisement,
setting forth, that "a petition will be presented to the next
legislature of Virginia, from the county of Westmoreland,
praying the passage of some law to _compel_ the free negroes in
this commonwealth to emigrate therefrom, under a penalty which
will effectually promote this object." So, too, at a meeting of
the citizens of Prince George county, in Maryland, it was
resolved to "petition the next legislature to remove all the
free negroes out of that State, and to prohibit all persons from
manumitting slaves without making provision for their removal."'

I close this work with a specimen of the sophistry which is used to give
_eclat_ to the American Colonization Society.

In the month of June, 1830, I happened to peruse a number of the
Southern Religious Telegraph, in which I found an essay, enforcing the
duty of clergymen to take up collections in aid of the funds of the
Colonization Society on the then approaching fourth of July. After an
appropriate introductory paragraph, the writer proceeds in the following
remarkable strain:

'But - we have a plea like a peace offering to man and to God. We
answer poor blinded Africa in her complaint - that we have her
children, and that they have served on our plantations. And we
tell her, look at their returning! We took them barbarous,
though measurably free, - untaught - rude - without
science - without the true religion - without philosophy - and
strangers to the best civil governments. And now we return them
to her bosom, _with the mechanical arts_ ... _with science_ ...
_with philosophy_ ... with civilization ... with republican
feelings ... and above all, with the true knowledge of the true
God, and the way of salvation through the Redeemer.'

'The mechanical arts!' - with whom did they serve an apprenticeship?
'With philosophy!' - in what colleges were they taught? It is strange
that we should be so anxious to get rid of these scientific men of
color - these philosophers - these republicans - these christians, and that
we should shun their company as if they were afflicted with the
hydrophobia, or carried a deadly pestilence in their train! Certainly,
they _must_ have singular notions of the christian religion which
tolerates - or, rather, which is so perverted as to tolerate - the
oppression of God's rational creatures by its professors! They must feel
a peculiar kind of brotherly love for those _good men_ who banded
together to remove them to Africa, because they were too proud to

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 28 of 29)