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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The above (which cannot be perused without a thrill of horror) is one of
the legitimate fruits of foreign colonization. Subsequent to this bloody
affair, another battle took place, which resulted in the defeat of the
natives and the loss of many lives. It is true, the colony since that
period has received little molestation, and has succeeded, moreover, in
making some amicable treaties with the natives; but in proportion to its
means of defence and numerical force will be its liability to encroach
upon the rights of the Africans, and thus to provoke hostilities. If
this prophecy should not be fulfilled, history will have spoken in
vain, and human nature experienced a total regeneration.

No man of refined sensibility can contemplate the fate of the aborigines
of this country, without shuddering at the consequences of colonization;
and if _they_ melted away at the presence of the pilgrims and their
descendants, like frost before the meridian blaze of the sun, - if _they_
fell to the earth, like the leaves of the forest before the autumnal
blast, by the settlement of men reputedly humane, wise and pious, in
their vicinage, - what can be our hope for the preservation of the
Africans, associated with a population degraded by slavery, and, to a
lamentable extent, destitute of religious and secular knowledge? The
argument, that the difference of complexion between our forefathers and
the aborigines (which is not a distinctive feature between the settlers
at Liberia and the natives) was the real cause of this deadly enmity, is
more specious than solid. _Conduct_, not _color_, secures friendship or
excites antipathy, as it happens to be just or unjust. The venerated
William Penn and his pacific followers furnish a case in point.

I avow it - the natural tendency of the colony at Liberia excites the
most melancholy apprehensions in my mind. Its birth was conceived in
blood, and its footsteps will be marked with blood down to old age - the
blood of the poor natives - unless a special interposition of Divine
Providence prevent such a calamity. The emigrants will be eager in the
acquisition of wealth, ease and power; and, having superior skill and
discernment in trade, they will outwit and defraud the natives as often
as occasion permits. This knavish treatment once detected, - as it surely
will be, for even an uncivilized people may soon learn that they have
been cheated, - will provoke retaliation, and stir up the worst passions
of the human breast. Bloody conflicts will ensue, in which the colonists
will be victorious. This success will serve to increase the enmity of
the natives, and to perpetuate the murderous struggle. The extirpation
of one generation may put the colonists in undisputed possession of the

This is not a fancy sketch - it is not improbable: on the contrary, it is
the obvious and hitherto certain consequence of bringing hastily
together large bodies of civilized men with unlettered barbarians.

Jealousy will be another fruitful source of contention. The population
of Africa is divided into a vast number of tribes, governed by petty
kings, - sometimes indeed united by an amicable league, but commonly
distinct and independent. Some of these tribes will form alliances with
the colonists, either to obtain protection from their more formidable
rivals or from motives of fear, curiosity or selfishness. In this
manner, tribe will be arrayed against tribe throughout that vast
continent; the tide of commotion, gathering fresh impetuosity in its
headlong career, will rush from the mountains down to the ocean,
devastating all that is beautiful, and swiftly defacing that which will
require the labors of centuries to restore to its pristine excellence;
there will be wars and rumors of wars, succeeded by deceitful and
unstable treaties ratified only to be broken at a favorable moment; and
these collisions will not cease until the colonists obtain an undisputed
mastery over the natives.

Would to Heaven these fears might prove to be but the offspring of a
distracted mind! May the colonists be so just in their intercourse with
the Africans, as never to impeach their own integrity; so pacific, as to
disarm retaliation and perpetuate good will; so benevolent, as to excite
gratitude and diffuse joy wherever their names shall be known; and so
holy, as to exalt the christian religion in the eyes of an idolatrous
nation! But he must be grossly ignorant of human nature, or strangely
infatuated, who believes that they will always, or commonly, exhibit
this unexceptionable conduct.

It is my sober conviction, that no contrivance or enterprise could
possibly be planned more fatally calculated to obstruct the progress of
christianity in a heathenish country, than the establishment of a
colony, or colonies, of selfish, ignorant, or even intelligent and
high-minded men, on its shores. In every settlement of this kind, - no
matter how choice the original materials, - vice will soon preponderate
over virtue, intemperance over sobriety, knavery over honesty,
oppression over liberty, and impiety over godliness. The natives will
see just enough of christianity to hate and shun it; finding that its
fruits are generally bad - that it has no restraining influence upon the
mass of its nominal professors, - they will not easily comprehend the
utility of abandoning their own idolatrous worship; looking only to the
pernicious examples of the intruders, they will spurn with contempt the
precepts of the gospel. Their confidence will be abused - their lands
craftily trafficked for nought - their ignorance cheated - their
inferiority treated oppressively; and then what must naturally follow?
Why - WAR - _a war of retaliation_. All the vices, and few of the virtues,
of the instructers, will be faithfully copied; and thus barriers will be
erected against the progress of the Christian religion, not absolutely
insurmountable, it is true, but sufficiently tall and strong to retard
its noble career - barriers not only of superstition and ignorance, but
of hatred and revenge. These reflections might be extended to the size
of a volume; but they are probably sufficient to convince every
unprejudiced, discerning mind, that the establishment of foreign
colonies in a barbarous land is the surest way to prevent its speedy
evangelism and civilization.

In reply to this reasoning, some of the advocates of African
colonization may argue, that schools and houses of worship, multiplying
with the growth of the settlement at Liberia, will check the evil
propensities and passions of the emigrants, and qualify them to act as
missionaries or instructers among the natives; and thus great good will
be bestowed upon Africa. This is at least a summary, if not a sure mode
of obviating these difficulties.

In the first place, it is by no means certain - nay, it is not probable,
especially if the number of emigrants annually exported to Liberia swell
from hundreds to thousands, (and this increase of transportation is
positively promised by the Parent Society, and absolutely necessary to
cause a perceptible diminution in the annual enlargement of our colored
population) - I say, it is neither certain nor probable that the
multiplication of literary and religious privileges will keep pace with
the unnatural and enormous growth of the colony. Nine years after the
first settlement of Liberia, it appears by the following extract of a
letter from a highly respectable colored emigrant, (the Rev. George M.
Erskine,) there was but the 'remnant of a school' left! This letter is
dated '_Caldwell, Liberia, April 3, 1830_.'

'Sir, the state of things, with regard to schools, is truly
lamentable. _The only school in the Colony at this time, is a
remnant of one at the Cape._ Among the present emigrants, there
are seventeen out of forty-eight that can read the Holy
Scriptures, _leaving thirty-one that cannot_. Now, Sir, suppose
each company of emigrants to this place bring a like proportion
of illiterate persons into the Colony, then what state, think
you, it must be in? But again, Sir: I am greatly mistaken if
this Colony is not, for several years yet to come, mostly to be
peopled with slaves sent out by their present owners, without
any education themselves, and without means and very little
desire to have their children instructed; and add to the above,
that this people is planted in the midst, and are daily
conversant with, a people that are not only heathen, but a
people extremely partial in favor of their grovelling
superstition. My dear Sir, this being the case, _whether is it
probable that they will come over to us, or we go down to them_?
To me the latter is the most likely, _as it is the very essence
of human nature to seek the lowest depth of degradation_. Permit
me to say, Sir, there must be a great revolution in this Colony
before it can have a salutary influence on the surrounding
natives; that is, before it can have a moral influence over

Subsequent accounts, I am happy to state, present a better aspect in
relation to the education of this outcast and persecuted people: their
wants, however, are only partially supplied.

The annual increase of the free colored and slave population in the
United States is variously estimated from sixty to seventy-five
thousand. The American Colonization Society proposes the annual removal
of this vast body, - and more, if it be possible, - provided the energies
and patronage of the General Government be enlisted in this expulsive
crusade. Now, suppose the entire transportation effected, let any candid
man decide how extremely difficult, not to say impracticable, it would
be to discipline and instruct such an overwhelming mass of ignorance, or
any considerable portion of it - and how pernicious must be the
consequences to the colony and the natives, if it should not receive
immediate culture!

Secondly. It is neither certain nor probable that, allowing all that is
assumed by colonizationists, the influence of secular and religious
instruction would be sufficient to restrain the selfish desires and
knavish propensities of those whose main object is, not to evangelize
the natives, but to secure, by a summary process, competence and power
for themselves. Indeed, their juxtaposition with the natives would be
eminently calculated to induce the fever of avarice, and to generate the
lust of dominion. It is well known that so eager are the colonists to
acquire a rapid accumulation of wealth, by trafficking their paltry
beads and poisonous rum and tobacco for ivory, camwood and gold dust, it
is with the utmost difficulty any considerable portion of them are
persuaded to cultivate the soil and engage in agricultural pursuits.
Thus we are presented with the disgraceful, if not singular spectacle of
a rivalry in cunning and trickishness between a colony of _soi-disant_
missionaries (really avaricious and unscrupulous foreigners) and the
tribes who are to come under their pious pupilage. If equal dexterity in
trade is not apparent, each party is equally pleased with its successful
attempts at deception, and both renew the fraudulent commerce with fresh
alacrity - the one to gain a new triumph, and the other to retrieve an
old defeat. And this is the mode of colonizationists to evangelize
Africa! and this their mode to suppress the slave trade! and this their
mode to elevate the free people of color! and this their mode to
emancipate the slaves! It combines the folly and absurdity of a farce
with the solemnity and murderment of a tragedy.

Far be it from me to leave the impression upon the mind of the reader,
from these representations, that all the colonists are actuated by the
same selfish motives, or that they have exhibited any new and
extraordinary traits of character in their commerce with the Africans.
Many of them, I believe, are men who fear God and desire the welfare of
his creatures: all of them have behaved as honorably, perhaps, and
trafficked as equitably, as any other body of men, white or yellow,
would have done in the same situation and under the same circumstances.
Dishonesty in trade is no prodigy, even in this country. To bring
accusations of fraud, cupidity and cunning against human nature, is not
libellous. I am persuaded that robbery, - well contrived, deliberately
executed robbery, - is perpetrated in every community among ourselves,
without any due estimate of its moral turpitude, by reputable merchants
and traders upon their customers, to a larger extent than all the
avowed and heinous thefts collectively, which are committed against
society. It is lamentable to see how studiously conscience and fair
dealing are excluded from the secular business of the world. If we see,
every day, illustrations of this dishonest conduct, given by men of
refinement, intelligence and good character, what should we expect from
those whose fetters have hardly fallen from their limbs; who have been
systematically degraded by slavery; who have not consequently that
lively sense of moral obligation which accompanies intelligence; who are
beyond the influence of public sentiment, and surrounded by a barbarous

The establishment of a colony of speculators, then, to evangelize
Africa, does not discover much wisdom or promise much success; but, on
the contrary, exhibits a total blindness of vision and a most
unfavorable aspect.

Let it be remembered, however, that _rum_ and _tobacco_ (two poisons
which are exactly adapted to destroy both soul and body) are the
principal articles given to the natives - because pertinaciously demanded
by them - in exchange for their own. Their appetite for spirituous
liquor, first created by the slave traders and subsequently excited by
the colonists, is insatiate. Even the justly lamented ASHMUN, if I do
not mistake, for I have not his letter now before me, was so imprudent
in one of his epistles to the Board of Managers as to concede the fatal
necessity of selling rum freely to the natives, in order to maintain a
commercial intercourse with them. Rum they would have, or nothing; and
rum they obtained then, and do now obtain. Any one who will take the
trouble to read the advertisements in the Liberia Herald will discover
that ardent spirits form a prominent item in the list of articles
offered for sale. Of the sobriety of the colonists, however, common
report speaks in the most gratifying manner; but as their number is to
be increased by a redundant importation, we have reason to fear a
declension of morals.

Thirdly. Colonizationists strenuously contend that our colored
population are destined always to remain a degraded class in this
country. If educated any where, they must be educated in Africa. We must
take them in their ignorance, and just released from bondage, and
translate them to another continent on the wings of the wind. Delay
would be injurious to ourselves, and calamitous to them. They must go in
large bodies - by thousands and tens of thousands annually - till the
whole be expelled from our shores. For it seems, according to the logic
of colonizationists, every individual tainted with black blood must be
transported, to insure the regeneration of Africa! Neither fifty
thousand, nor one hundred thousand, nor half a million of these
_missionaries_ will be able to accomplish the task; but two millions of
slaves and four hundred thousand free people of color, and all their
descendants in time to come, here - even little babes (pretty prattling
reformers!) and children - the maimed, the halt, and the blind - all must
be sent off - else alas! alas! for poor benighted Africa! This is no
caricature. An ugly face is sure to quarrel with its own likeness. But
what is the portrait worth, if it bear no resemblance to the living
original? They who place themselves in a ridiculous attitude must not
claim exemption from ridicule.

Let us turn to the picture once more. It is worth our while to
contemplate it a few moments longer.

What do we see? More than one-sixth portion of the American
people - confessedly the most vicious, degraded and dangerous
portion - crowded on the shores of Africa, by means which are hereafter
to be considered, and at an expense which we shall not stop now to
calculate, for the purpose of civilizing and evangelizing Africa, and of
improving their own condition! Here, then, are _two_ ignorant and
depraved nations to be regenerated instead of _one_! - if we may call all
the natives that occupy that vast continent a nation - two huge and
heterogeneous masses of contagion mingled together for the preservation
of each! One of these nations is so incorrigibly stupid, or unfathomably
deep in pollution, (for such is the argument,) that, although surrounded
by ten millions of people living under the full blaze of gospel light,
and having every desirable facility to elevate and save it, it never can
rise until it be removed at least three thousand miles from their
vicinage! - and yet it is first to be evangelized in a barbarous land, by
a feeble, inadequate process, before it can be qualified to evangelize
the other nation! In other words, men who are intellectually and
morally blind are violently removed from light effulgent into thick
darkness, in order that they may obtain light themselves and diffuse
light among others! Ignorance is sent to instruct ignorance, ungodliness
to exhort ungodliness, vice to stop the progress of vice, and depravity
to reform depravity! All that is abhorrent to our moral sense, or
dangerous to our quietude, or villanous in human nature, we benevolently
disgorge upon Africa for her temporal and eternal welfare! We propose to
build upon her shores, for her glory and defence, colonies framed of
materials which we discard as worthless for our own use, and which
possess no fitness or durability! Admirable consistency! surprising
wisdom! unexampled benevolence! As rationally might we think of
exhausting the ocean by multiplying the number of its tributaries, or
extinguishing a fire by piling fuel upon it.

Lastly. Any scheme to proselytize which requires for its protection the
erection of forts and the use of murderous weapons, is opposed to the
genius of christianity and radically wrong. If the gospel cannot be
propagated but by the aid of the sword, - if its success depend upon the
muscular power and military science of its apostles, - it were better to
leave the pagan world in darkness. The first specimen of _benevolence_
and _piety_, which the colonists gave to the natives, was the building
of a fort, and supplying it with arms and ammunition! This was an
earnest manifestation of that 'peace on earth, good will to man,' which
these expatriated _missionaries_ were sent to inculcate! How eminently
calculated to inspire the confidence, excite the gratitude, and
accelerate the conversion of the Africans! Their 'dread of the great
guns of the Islanders,' (to adopt the language of Mr Ashmun,) must from
the beginning have made a deep and salutary impression upon their minds;
and when, not long afterward, 'every shot' from these guns '_spent its
force in a solid mass of living human flesh_' - their own flesh - they
must have experienced a total regeneration. Bullets and cannon balls
argue with resistless effect, and as easily convert a barbarous as
civilized people. One sanguinary conflict was sufficient to spread the
glad tidings of salvation among a thousand tribes, almost with the
rapidity of light! - But even irony, though appropriate, is painful. I

But - says an objector - these reflections come too late. The colony is
planted, whatever may be its influence. What do you recommend? Its
immediate abandonment to want and ruin? Shall we not bestow upon it our
charities, and commend it to the protection of Heaven?

I answer - Let the colony continue to receive the aid, and elicit the
prayers of the good and benevolent. Still let it remain within the pale
of christian sympathy. Blot it not out of existence. But let it
henceforth develope itself naturally. Crowd not its population. Let
transportation cease. Seek no longer to exile millions of our colored
countrymen. For, assuredly, if the Colonization Society succeed in its
efforts to remove thousands of their number annually, it could not
inflict a heavier curse upon Africa, or more speedily assist in the
entire subversion of the colony.

But - the objector asks - how shall we evangelize Africa?

In the same manner as we have evangelized the Sandwich and Society
Islands, and portions of Burmah, Hindostan, and other lands. By sending
missionaries of the Cross _indeed_, who shall neither build forts nor
trust in weapons of war; who shall be actuated by a holy zeal and
genuine love; who shall be qualified to instruct, admonish, enlighten,
and proselyte; who shall not by their examples impugn the precepts, or
subject to suspicion the inspiration of the Word of Life; who shall not
be covered with pollution and shame as with a garment, or add to the
ignorance, sin and corruption of paganism; and who shall abhor
dishonesty, violence and treachery. Such men have been found to
volunteer their services for the redemption of a lost world; and such
men may be found now to embark in the same glorious enterprise. A
hundred evangelists like these, dispersed along the shores and in the
interior of Africa, would destroy more idols, make more progress in
civilizing the natives, suppress more wars, unite in amity more hostile
tribes, and convert more souls to Christ, in ten years, than a colony of
twenty-thousand ignorant, uncultivated, selfish emigrants in a century.
Such a mission would be consonant with reason and common sense; nor
could it fail to receive the approbation of God. How simple was the
command of our blessed Saviour to his disciples! - 'Go ye forth into all
the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.' Not - 'Send out from
among yourselves those whom you despise or against whom you cherish a
strong antipathy; those who need to be instructed and converted
themselves; those who are the dregs of society, made vicious and
helpless by oppression and public opinion; those who are beyond the
reach of the gospel in a Christian land; those whose complexions are not
precisely like yours, or who have any personal blemishes whatever that
excite your dislike; - send out _all_ these to evangelize the nations
which sit in darkness and in the regions of the shadow of death!'

Denham, Clapperton, and Lander, travellers in Africa, represent the
natives in a light most favorable for the introduction of christianity;
as eager to learn and become a civilized and great people like the
Europeans. Excepting the followers of Mohammed, they are not tenacious
of their forms of religious worship; and a considerable portion of them
are totally indifferent to devotional exercises. It seems apparent, that
the fruits of a mission in Africa would be thrice as numerous as those
of one in India, because the obstacles to be surmounted are far less

But - says the objector - the climate of Africa is fatal to white men.

So is the climate of India. But our missionaries have not counted their
lives dear unto themselves; and, as fast as one is cut down, another
stands ready to supply his place.

I do not believe that the Creator has immoveably fixed the habitations
of any people within a boundary narrower than the circumference of the
globe. I believe that rapid transitions from intensity of heat and cold,
and cold and heat, are destructive to animal life; but I also believe
that the human body is easily acclimated, in any region of the world. I
believe the time is swiftly approaching when empires and continents
shall as freely commingle their population as do states and
neighborhoods. To limit or obstruct this intercourse, is to impoverish
and circumscribe human happiness. Civilization will remove those causes
which now engender pestilence and death, and neutralize the effects of
atmospherical contagion.

Hence it will be seen that I do not assail the Colonization Society, as
many others have done, simply because the settlement at Liberia is
unhealthy. It is true, the mortality among the emigrants has been
excessive; and so it was among the first settlers of New-England. But
the climate of New-England is no longer pestiferous; and the climate of
Africa will grow sweet and salubrious as her forests disappear, and the
purifying influences of Christianity penetrate into the interior. I
expressly contend, however, that it is murderous, indiscriminately to
colonize large bodies of men, women and children, in a foreign land,

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 4 of 29)