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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Almost every city, town or village suffers annually by the departure of
some of its adventurous inhabitants. Companies have been formed to go
and possess the Oregon territory - an enterprise hazardous and
unpromising in the extreme. The old States are distributing their
population over the whole continent, with unexampled fruitfulness and
liberality. But why this restless, roving, unsatisfied disposition? Is
it because those who cherish it are treated as the offscouring of all
flesh, in the place of their birth? or because they do not possess equal
rights and privileges with other citizens? or because they are the
victims of incorrigible hate and prejudice? or because they are told
that they must choose between exilement and perpetual degradation? or
because the density of population renders it impossible for them to
obtain preferment and competence here? or because they are estranged by
oppression and scorn? or because they cherish no attachment to their
native soil, to the scenes of their childhood and youth, or to the
institutions of government? or because they consider themselves as
dwellers in a strange land, and feel a burning desire, a feverish
longing to return home? No. They lie under no odious disabilities,
whether imposed by public opinion or by legislative power; to them the
path of preferment is wide open; they sustain a solid and honorable
reputation; they not only can rise, but have risen, and may soar still
higher, to responsible stations and affluent circumstances; no calamity
afflicts, no burden depresses, no reproach excludes, no despondency
enfeebles them; and they love the spot of their nativity almost to
idolatry. The air of heaven is not freer or more buoyant than they.
Theirs is a spirit of curiosity and adventurous enterprise, impelled by
no malignant influences, but by the spontaneous promptings of the mind.
Far different is the case of our colored population. Their _voluntary_
banishment is _compulsory_ - they are _forced_ to turn _volunteers_, as
will be shown in other parts of this work.

The following proposition is self-evident: The success of an enterprise
furnishes no proof that it is in accordance with justice, or that it
meets the approbation of God, or that it ought to be prosecuted to its
consummation, or that it is the fruit of disinterested benevolence.

I do not doubt that the Colony at Liberia, by a prodigal expenditure of
life and money, will ultimately flourish; but a good result would no
more hallow that persecution which is seeking to drag the blacks away,
than it would if we should burn every distillery, and shut up in prison
every vender of ardent spirits, in order to do good and to prevent
people from becoming drunkards. Because Jehovah overrules evil for good,
shall we therefore continue to do evil?

If ten thousand white mechanics, farmers, merchants, &c. &c. were to
emigrate to Africa, does any man doubt whether permanent good would
result from the enterprise - good to that benighted continent, which
would counterbalance all the sacrifices and sufferings attending it? And
yet is there a single mechanic, farmer or merchant, who feels it to be
his duty, or would be willing to go? Suppose the people of color should
get the power into their hands to-morrow, and should argue that the
whites must not be admitted to equal privileges with themselves; but
that, having so long plundered Africa, and oppressed her children,
justice demanded that they should be sent to that desolate land to build
up colonies, and carry the light of civilization and knowledge, as a
sort of reparation - and that, having superior instruction in literature
and science, they were peculiarly qualified for such a mission - how
would this doctrine relish? 'It is a poor rule that will not work both
ways,' says the proverb. Yet this logic would be more sound than is our
own with regard to the colonization of the blacks.

On this point, deception is practised to a great extent. The advocates
of the Colonization Society are constantly aiming to divert public
attention from the only proper subject of inquiry, namely, 'Is it based
upon benevolence and justice?' - to the success of the colony. Granting
all that they assert, it proves nothing; but of this success I shall
have occasion, doubtless, to speak hereafter. Fine stories are trumpeted
all over the country, of the happiness, intelligence, industry, virtue,
enterprise and dignity of the colonists; and changes, absolutely
miraculous, are gravely recorded for the admiration and credulity of
community. 'The simple,' says Solomon, 'believeth every word: but the
prudent man looketh well to his going.'

The doctrine, that the 'end sanctifies the means,' belongs, I trust,
exclusively to the creed of the Jesuits. If I were sure that the Society
would accomplish the entire regeneration of Africa by its present
measures, my detestation of its principles would not abate one jot, nor
would I bestow upon it the smallest modicum of praise. Never shall the
fruits of the mercy and overruling providence of God, - ever bringing
good out of evil and light out of darkness, - be ascribed to the
prejudice and sin of man.

It is certain that many a poor native African has been led to embrace
the gospel, in consequence of his transportation to our shores, who else
had lived and died a heathen. Is the slave trade therefore a blessing?
Suppose one of those wretches who are engaged in this nefarious commerce
were brought before the Supreme Court, and being convicted, should be
asked by the Judge, whether he had aught to say why sentence of death
should not be pronounced upon him? And suppose the culprit should espy
some of his sable victims in court, whom he knew had made a profession
of faith, and he should boldly reply - 'May it please your Honor, I
abducted these people away from their homes, it is true; but they were
poor, miserable, benighted idolators, and must have inevitably remained
as such unto the hour of their death, if I had not brought them to this
land of christianity and bibles, where they have been taught a knowledge
of the true God, and are now rejoicing in hope of a glorious
immortality. I therefore offer as a conclusive reason why sentence
should not be pronounced, _that I have rescued souls from perdition_,
and thus enlarged the company of the saints in light.' Would the villain
be acquitted, and, instead of a halter, receive the panegyric of the
Court for his conduct?

Our pilgrim fathers, not being able to worship God according to the
dictates of their own consciences in the mother country, were compelled
by ecclesiastical despotism to seek a refuge in this rude and barbarous
continent. Wonderful have been the fruits of their expulsion! A mighty
republic established - the freest, the wisest, the most religious on
earth! - influencing the world by its example, and exciting the emulation
of all nations! Now suppose we should occasionally find in the pages of
the Edinburgh or Quarterly Review, or in the columns of the English
newspapers, not only a full justification of this oppressive treatment
in view of its astonishing consequences, but a claim to approbation on
account of its exercise. Would not such effrontery amaze us? Would not
an honest indignation burn within us? Should we look with a more
complacent aspect upon the bigots who kindled those fires of persecution
around the Puritans, which, but for the interposition of Heaven, had
consumed them to ashes?

The death of our Lord Jesus Christ was essential to the salvation of the
world. Suppose Judas, at the judgment day, should build upon this fact
in extenuation of his dreadful crime. What would be the decision of the
assembled universe? Yea, what was the condemnation passed upon him by
the Illustrious Sufferer? 'Wo to that man by whom the Son of man is
betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born!'

Let not, then, any imaginary or real prosperity of the settlement at
Liberia lead any individual to applaud the Colonization Society,
reckless whether it be actuated by mistaken philanthropy, or perverted
generosity, or selfish policy, or unchristian prejudice.

I should oppose this Society, even were its doctrines harmless. It
imperatively and effectually seals up the lips of a vast number of
influential and pious men, who, for fear of giving offence to those
slaveholders with whom they associate, and thereby leading to a
dissolution of the compact, dare not expose the flagrant enormities of
the system of slavery, nor denounce the crime of holding human beings in
bondage. They dare not lead to the onset against the forces of tyranny;
and if _they_ shrink from the conflict, how shall the victory be won? I
do not mean to aver, that, in their sermons, or addresses, or private
conversations, they never allude to the subject of slavery; for they do
so frequently, or at least every Fourth of July. But my complaint is,
that they content themselves with representing slavery as an evil, - a
misfortune, - a calamity which has been entailed upon us by former
generations, - _and not as an individual_ CRIME, embracing in its folds
robbery, cruelty, oppression and piracy. _They do not identify the
criminals_; they make no direct, pungent, earnest appeal to the
consciences of men-stealers; by consenting to walk arm-in-arm with them,
they virtually agree to abstain from all offensive remarks, and to aim
entirely at the expulsion of the free people of color; their lugubrious
exclamations, and solemn animadversions, and reproachful reflections,
are altogether indefinite; they 'go about, and about, and all the way
round to nothing;' they generalize, they shoot into the air, they do not
disturb the repose nor wound the complacency of the sinner; 'they have
put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed
difference between the unclean and the clean.' Thus has free inquiry
been suppressed, and a universal fear created, and the tongue of the
boldest silenced, and the sleep of death fastened upon the nation.
'Truth has fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter.' The plague
is raging with unwonted fatality; but no _cordon sanitaire_ is
established - no adequate remedy sought. The tide of moral death is
constantly rising and widening; but no efforts are made to stay its
desolating career. The fire of God's indignation is kindling against us,
and thick darkness covers the heavens, and the hour of retribution is at
hand; but we are obstinate in our transgression, we refuse to repent, we
impiously throw the burden of our guilt upon our predecessors, we affect
resignation to our _unfortunate_ lot, we descant upon the mysterious
dispensations of Providence, we deem ourselves objects of God's
compassion rather than of his displeasure. 'Shall I not visit for these
things? saith the Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as

Were the American Colonization Society bending its energies directly to
the immediate abolition of slavery; seeking to enlighten and consolidate
public opinion, on this momentous subject; faithfully exposing the
awful guilt of the owners of slaves; manfully contending for the
bestowal of equal rights upon our free colored population in this their
native land; assiduously endeavoring to uproot the prejudices of
society; and holding no fellowship with oppressors; my opposition to it
would cease. It might continue to bestow its charities upon those who
should desire to seek another country, and at the same time launch its
thunders against the system of oppression. But, alas! it looks to the
banishment of the free people of color as the only means to abolish
slavery, and conciliate the feelings of the planters.

The popularity of the Society is not attributable to its merits, but
exclusively to its congeniality with those unchristian prejudices which
have so long been cherished against a sable complexion. It is agreeable
to slaveholders, because it is striving to remove a class of persons who
they fear may stir up their slaves to rebellion; all who avow undying
hostility to the people of color are in favor of it; all who shrink from
acknowledging them as brethren and friends, or who make them a distinct
and inferior caste, or who deny the possibility of elevating them in the
scale of improvement here, most heartily embrace it. Having ample funds,
it has been able to circulate its specious appeals in every part of the
country; and to employ active and eloquent agents, who have glowingly
described to the people the immense advantages to be reaped from the
accomplishment of its designs. With this entire preoccupancy of the
ground, and these common though unworthy dispositions in its favor, the
wonder is, that it is not more popular.

Much cleverness is not requisite to tell a fine story; and a fine story
is always agreeable to a credulous listener. An agent of the Society
goes into a place, and finds no difficulty in procuring a pulpit from
which to address a congregation. The benevolent pastor, who, perhaps,
has had neither time nor opportunity to examine the principles of the
Society, readily officiates on the occasion, and, in the fulness of his
heart, believing that he is not asking amiss, supplicates the
benediction of Heaven upon the object of the meeting. This co-operation
of the pastor with the agent makes an impression decidedly favorable to
the latter upon the minds of the audience, and prepares them to receive
his statements with confidence. He first dwells upon the miserable
condition of Africa - desolated with civil wars - the prey of
kidnappers - given up to idolatry - full of intellectual darkness and
spiritual death - and bleeding at every pore. He next depicts the horrors
of the slave trade, and shows how inefficient have been the laws enacted
for its suppression. He finally expatiates upon the evils and dangers of
slavery; and is particularly minute in describing the degradation of the
free people of color, which he declares to be irreclaimable in this land
of gospel light. 'Now, my christian brethren and friends,' he continues,
'the object of the American Colonization Society is to stay the effusion
of blood, to give light to them who sit in darkness, and to make
reparation for the wrongs which have been inflicted upon the sable sons
of Africa. As the people of color must evidently be a distinct and
degraded class while they reside in this country, and as they are
threatened with universal proscription, the Society benevolently
proposes to send them back _to their native country_, by their own
_voluntary_ consent, together with those slaves who may be emancipated
for this purpose, where they may enjoy equal rights and privileges, nor
longer retain any sense of inferiority to the whites. Every emigrant
will go as a missionary to reclaim the poor natives from their
barbarism, and to spread the tidings of salvation throughout the African
continent. By forming a chain of colonies along the coast, a speedy
check will be given to the accursed slave trade, - a trade which cannot
be destroyed in any other manner. Who does not desire to see Africa
civilized and evangelized? Whose heart does not leap in view of the
suppression of the slave trade? Who does not pray for deliverance from
the evils of slavery? Who does not wish to behold the free people of
color, - cursed with ineffectual freedom here, - _recalled from their
banishment_, and placed where no obstacles will impede their march to
affluence, preferment and honor? The Colonization Society, then,
powerfully commends itself to the christian, the philanthropist and the
patriot - to every section of our country and to all denominations of

Exquisite! The picture is crowded with attractions, delightful to the
eye. The story is skilfully told, and implicitly believed; but, like
every other story, it has two sides to it. So complete is the delusion,
however, that many good people are ready to class those who denounce the
Colonization Society, among the opposers of foreign missions, bible and
tract societies, and the other benevolent operations of the age!

Far be it from me to accuse the agents of the Society of intentionally
perverting the truth or deliberately imposing upon the credulity of the
public. Some - perhaps all of them, are men of sincerity and probity;
but, deluded themselves, they help to delude others. Their vision is
imperfect; and 'if the blind lead the blind,' we may expect to find them
in the same ditch together.

Great complacency has been manifested on various occasions, by the
advocates of the Society, on the ground that it was at first suspected
of sinister designs, both at the north and the south, but is now
receiving the countenance of both. This exultation is premature. The
opposition formerly manifested to the Society by the holders of slaves,
grew out of their ignorance of its purpose; but a very large majority of
them now perceive that it is their devoted servant, crouching down at
their feet, shielding them from reproach, dragging those away whom they
dread, allowing them to sin with impunity, and generously granting them
and their children whole centuries in which to repent, and to surrender
what they have stolen! It dissuades them from emancipating their slaves
faster than they can be transported to Africa; and thus regards their
persistance in robbery and oppression as evidence of wisdom, benevolence
and sanity! It is natural, that, discovering their mistake, they should
now rally in a body around the Society; and, consequently, we find that
the legislatures of the several slaveholding States are passing
encomiums upon it, and in some instances appropriating sums of money to
be paid over to it by instalments.

The people of the north have been shamefully duped by this scheme; but,
like the slaveholders, they begin to discover their error. Unlike them,
however, they are withdrawing their support, in obedience to the
injunction of the Apostle: 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with
unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what
concord hath Christ with Belial? Wherefore come out from among them, and
be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I
will receive you.'

To Africa this country owes a debt larger than she is able to liquidate.
Most intensely do I desire to see that ill-fated continent transformed
into the abode of civilization, of the arts and sciences, of evangelical
piety, of liberty, and of all that adds to the dignity, the renown, and
the temporal and eternal happiness of man. Shame and confusion of face
belong to the Church, that she has so long disregarded the claims of
Africa upon her sympathies, and prayers, and liberality - claims as much
superior as its wrongs to those of any other portion of the globe. It is
indeed most strange that, like the Priest and the Levite, she should
have 'passed by on the other side,' and left the victim of thieves to
bleed and sicken and die. As the Africans were the only people doomed to
perpetual servitude, and to be the prey of kidnappers, she should have
long since directed almost her undivided efforts to civilize and convert
them, - not by establishing colonies of ignorant and selfish foreigners
among them, who will seize every opportunity to overreach or oppress, as
interest or ambition shall instigate, - but by sending intelligent, pious
missionaries; men fearing God and eschewing evil - living evidences of
the excellence of christianity - having but one object, not the
possession of wealth or the obtainment of power or the gratification of
selfishness, but _the salvation of the soul_. Had she made this attempt,
as she was bound to have made it by every principle of justice and every
feeling of humanity, a century ago, Africa would have been, at the
present day, 'redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled,' and the slavery
of her children brought to an end. No pirates would now haunt her coast
to desolate her villages with fire and sword, in order to supply a
christian people with hewers of wood and drawers of water. How much has
been needlessly lost to the world by this criminal neglect!

The conception of evangelizing a heathenish country by sending to it an
illiterate, degraded and irreligious population, belongs exclusively to
the advocates of African colonization. For absurdity and inaptitude, it
stands, and must forever stand, without a parallel. Of all the offspring
of prejudice and oppression, it is the most shapeless and unnatural. But
more of this hereafter.

History is full of instruction on the subject of colonization. The
establishment of colonies, in all ages, with scarcely an exception, has
resulted either in their subversion by the vices or physical strength of
the natives, or by a fatal amalgamation with them; or else in the rapid
destruction of the natives by the superior knowledge and greedy avarice
of the new settlers. It is presumption to suppose that the colony at
Liberia, composed of the worst materials imaginable, will present an
example of forbearance, stability and good faith, hitherto unwitnessed
in the world.

Soon after its establishment, the colony narrowly escaped a bloody
extirpation, and was the cause of a murderous warfare in which several
of the colonists and a large number of the natives were slain. The
steady growth of the colony excited the jealousy and alarm of some of
the neighboring tribes; and, accordingly, a consultation was held, at
which King George, Governor, and all the other head men, contended that
'The Americans were strangers _who had forgot their attachment to the
land of their fathers_; for if not, why had they not renounced their
connexion with white men altogether, and placed themselves under the
protection of the kings of the country? King George had already been
under the necessity of removing from his town, and leaving the Cape in
their hands. This was but the first step of their encroachments. If left
alone, they must, in a very few years, master the whole country. And as
all other places were full, their own tribe must be without a home, and
cease any longer to remain a nation.'[E] This appeal (which evinces an
intimate acquaintance with human nature and much foresight) induced the
attack to which allusion has been made. A single paragraph from the
Rev. Mr Ashmun's account of the battle with the natives may suffice to
give the reader an idea of its destructiveness:

'A few musketeers with E. Johnson at their head, by passing
round upon the enemy's flank, served to increase the
consternation which was beginning to pervade their unwieldy
body. In about twenty minutes after the settlers had taken their
stand, the front of the enemy began to recoil. But from the
numerous obstructions in their rear, the entire absence of
discipline, and the extreme difficulty of giving a reversed
motion to so large a body, a small part only of which was
directly exposed to danger, and the delay occasioned by the
practice of carrying off all their dead and wounded, rendered a
retreat for some minutes longer, impossible. The very violence
employed by those in the front, in their impatience to hasten
it, by increasing the confusion, produced an effect opposite to
that intended. The Americans perceiving their advantage, now
regained possession of the western post, and instantly brought
the long nine to rake the whole line of the enemy. Imagination
can scarcely figure to itself a throng of human beings in a more
capital state of exposure to the destructive power of the
machinery of modern warfare! Eight hundred men were here pressed
shoulder to shoulder, in so compact a form, that a child might
easily walk upon their heads from one end of the mass to the
other, presenting in their rear a breadth of rank equal to
twenty or thirty men, and all exposed to a gun of great power,
raised on a platform, at only thirty to sixty yards distance!
_Every shot literally spent its force in a solid mass of living
human flesh!_ Their fire suddenly terminated. A savage yell was
raised, which filled the dismal forest with a momentary horror.
It gradually died away; and the whole host disappeared. At 8
o'clock, the well known signal of their dispersion and return to
their homes was sounded, and many small parties seen at a
distance, directly afterwards, moving off in different
directions. One large canoe, employed in reconveying a party
across the mouth of the Montserado, venturing within the range
of the long gun, was struck by a shot, and several men

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 3 of 29)