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 5 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 5 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

before the natives are to some extent elevated by missionary effort: and
therefore I consider the Colonization Society as responsible for the
lives of those who have perished prematurely at Liberia.

But the objection is fallacious. If white missionaries cannot, black
ones can survive in Africa. What, then, is our duty? Obviously to
educate colored young men of genius, enterprise and piety, expressly to
carry the 'glad tidings of great joy' to her shores. Enough, I venture
to affirm, stand ready to be sent, if they can first be qualified for
their mission. If our free colored population were brought into our
schools, and raised from their present low estate, I am confident that
an army of christian volunteers would go out from their ranks, by a
divine impulse and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to redeem
their African brethren from the bondage of idolatry and the dominion of
spiritual death.

Whatever may be the result of this great controversy, I shall have the
consolation of believing that no efforts were lacking, on my part, to
uproot the prejudices of my countrymen, to persuade them to walk in the
path of duty and shun the precipice of expediency, to unloose the heavy
burdens and let the prisoners go free at once, to warn them of the
danger of expelling the people of color from their native land, and to
convince them of the necessity of abandoning a dangerous and chimerical,
as well as unchristian and anti-republican association. For these
efforts I have hitherto suffered reproach and persecution, and must
expect to suffer till I perish. This book will doubtless increase the
rage of my enemies; but no torrent of invective shall successfully whelm
it, no sophistry impair its force, no activity destroy its influence, no
misrepresentation defeat its usefulness.

I commend it, particularly, to the candid attention of the two most
powerful classes in this country - editors of newspapers and the clergy.
It is not a light matter for either of them to propagate false doctrines
and excite delusive hopes, on the subject of politics or religion.
Although the press is committed to a wide extent, I place too much
reliance upon the good sense and liberal patriotism of its conductors to
believe that the evidence which is presented in these pages of the
inefficiency and injustice of the colonization scheme, will fail to
convince their understanding. I cherish still higher expectations of its
salutary influence upon ministers of the gospel. It may grieve them to
discover that they have been misled themselves, and that they have
unwittingly misled others. To say to their flocks - 'We have erred in
this matter; we have solicited your charities for an institution which
is built upon prejudice and persecution; we have hastily adopted the
mistaken opinions of others' - such a confession may indeed require much
grace in the heart, but this grace, I am persuaded, they will obtain. As
apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, sustaining high and awful
responsibilities, and exerting an influence which measurably decides the
eternal destiny of the souls of men, they will not shut their eyes, or
stop their ears, or refuse to examine, or disregard the truth, in a case
involving the temporal and eternal happiness of millions of their fellow


[E] Memoir of American Colonists - vide 'The African Repository,' vol. 2,
p. 174.

[F] African Repository, vol. 2, p. 179.

[G] African Repository, vol. 6, p. 121.



Having concluded my introductory remarks, I now proceed to substantiate
my accusations against the American Colonization Society, by marshalling
in review the sentiments of those who first originated it, and who are
its efficient managers and advocates. It is obvious that, with my
limited means, and in a book designed for a cheap circulation, I shall
not be able to enter into so minute a detail as the present exigency
demands, or make those comments which might serve more fully to
illustrate the character of this association. It should be stated,
moreover, that I have not made any particular effort to procure
materials for this work, being satisfied that those which have almost
accidentally fallen into my hands, contain ample and conclusive evidence
of the unworthiness of the Society. A vast number of the Reports of
auxiliary bodies in various parts of the country, of orations and
sermons and essays in favor of African colonization, are beyond my
reach, and must remain unconsulted. If more proof be demanded, it shall
be given to the public. There is not a sound timber in this great Babel:
from the foundation to the roof, it is rotten and defective.

I shall not stop to interrogate the motives of those who planned the
Society. Some of them, undoubtedly, were actuated by a benevolent desire
to promote the welfare of our colored population, and could never have
intended to countenance oppression. But the question is not, whether
their motives were good or bad. Suppose they were all good - would this
fact prove infallibly that they could not err in judgment? Do we not
almost daily see men running headlong into wild and injurious
enterprises with the very best intentions? There is a wide difference
between meaning well and doing well. The slave trade originated in a
compassionate regard for the benighted Africans; and yet we hang those
who are detected in this traffic. I am willing to concede that Robert
Finley and Elias B. Caldwell were philanthropic individuals; and that a
large number of their followers are men of piety, benevolence and moral
worth. What then? Is the American Colonization Society a beneficial
institution? We shall see hereafter.

The history of this Society is familiar to the public. It was organized
about the commencement of the year 1817. The first public meeting to
consider the expediency of such an organization was held on the 21st of
December, 1816, at which the Hon. Henry Clay presided; but I have never
seen its official proceedings. It was addressed by Mr Clay, _Mr
Randolph_, Mr Caldwell, and other gentlemen, from whose speeches
extracts will shortly be given.

It is my purpose in this section to show, first, the original design of
the Society; secondly, that it is still strictly adhered to; and,
lastly, that the Society is solemnly pledged not to interfere with the
system of slavery, or in any manner to disturb the repose of the
planters. Upon the rigid observance of this sinful pledge depends its
existence; a single violation of it would be fatal. I want no better
reason than this, to wage an uncompromising warfare against it. No man
has a right to form an alliance with others, which prevents him from
rebuking sin or exposing the guilt of sinners. Every individual is bound
to oppose the system of slavery in the most direct, strenuous,
unfaltering manner - bound by the ties of brotherhood, by the spirit of
Christianity, by the genius of republicanism, by the dictates of
humanity, by the requirements of justice, by the love of country, by
duty to his God. He cannot suppress his voice, nor stop his ears to the
groans of the prisoners, and be innocent. If he hide the truth because
it may give offence - if he strike hands in amity with a thief - if he
leave the needy and oppressed to perish - God will visit him with
plagues. Now the language of the non-slaveholding members of the
Colonization Society to the owners of slaves is virtually as
follows: - 'The free people of color are a nuisance to us, and plotters
of sedition among your slaves. If they be not speedily removed, your
_property_ will be lost, and your lives destroyed. We therefore do
solemnly agree, that, if you will unite with us in expelling this
dangerous class from our shores, we will never accuse you of robbery or
oppression, or irritate your feelings by asserting the right of the
slaves to immediate freedom, or identify any one of you as a criminal;
but, on the contrary, we will boldly assert your innocence, and applaud
you as wise and benevolent men for holding your slaves in subjection
until you can cast them out of the country.' I say, this is _virtually_
their language, as I shall soon indisputably show. Thus we are presented
with the strange spectacle of a procession composed of the most
heterogeneous materials. There go, arm-in-arm, a New-England divine and
a southern kidnapper; and there an ungodly slaveholder and a pious
deacon; each eyeing the other with distrust, and fearful of exciting a
quarrel, both denouncing the poor, neglected, despised free black man as
a miserable, good-for-nothing creature, and both gravely complimenting
their foresight and generosity in sending this worthless wretch on a
religious mission to Africa!

I cannot exhibit the folly and wickedness of this alliance in a clearer
light than by inserting the following extract of a letter from Capt.
Charles Stuart, of the English Royal Navy, one of the most indefatigable
philanthropists in England:

'The American Colonization Society looks abroad over its own
country, and it finds a mass of its brethren, whom God has been
pleased to clothe with a darker skin. It finds one portion of
these free! another enslaved! It finds a cruel prejudice, as
dark and false as sin can make it, reigning with a most
tyrannous sway against both. It finds this prejudice respecting
the _free_, declaring without a blush, "We are too wicked ever
to love them as God commands us to do - we are so resolute in our
wickedness as not even to desire to do so - and we are so proud
in our iniquity that we will hate and revile whoever disturbs us
in it - We want, like the devils of old, to be let alone in our
sin - We are unalterably determined, and neither God nor man
shall move us from this resolution, that our free colored fellow
subjects never shall be happy in their native land." The
American Colonization Society, I say, finds this most base and
cruel prejudice, _and lets it alone_; nay more, it directly and
powerfully supports it.

'The American Colonization Society finds 2,000,000 of its fellow
subjects most iniquitously enslaved - and it finds a resolution
as proud and wicked as the very spirit of the pit can make it
against _obeying_ God and _letting them_ go free in their native
land. _It lets this perfectly infernal resolution alone_, nay
more, it powerfully supports it; for it in fact says, as a fond
and feeble father might say to some overgrown baby before whose
obstinate wickedness he quailed, "Never mind, my dear, I don't
want to prevent your beating and abusing your brothers and
sisters - let that be - but here is a box of sugar plums - do pray
give them one or two now and then." The American Colonization
Society says practically to the slaveholders and the slave party
in the United States, "We don't want to prevent your plundering
2,000,000 of our fellow subjects of their liberty and of the
fruits of their toil; although we know that by every principle
of law which does not utterly disgrace us by assimilating us to
pirates, that they have as good and as true a right to the equal
protection of the law as we have; and although we ourselves
stand prepared to die, rather than submit even to a fragment of
the intolerable load of oppression to which we are subjecting
them - yet never mind - let that be - they have grown old in
suffering, and we in iniquity - and we have nothing to do now but
to speak _peace_, _peace_ to one another in our sins. But if any
of their masters, whether from benevolence, an awakened
conscience, or political or personal fear, should emancipate
any, let us send them to Liberia - that is, in fact, let us give
a sugar plum here and there to a few, while the many are living
and dying unredressed - and while we are thus countenancing the
atrocious iniquity beneath which they are perishing." In this
aspect I find the American Colonization Society declaring itself
a substitute for emancipation, and it is in this aspect that I
contend with it, and that I proclaim it, _as far as it has this
character_, no farther, a bane to the colored people, whether
enslaved or free, and a snare and a disgrace to its country.'

The second article of the Constitution of this Society is in the
following language:

'The object to which its attention is to be _exclusively_
directed, is to promote and execute a plan for colonizing (with
their consent) the free people of color residing in our country,
in Africa, or such other place as Congress shall deem most
expedient. And the Society shall act, to effect this object, in
co-operation with the General Government, and such of the States
as may adopt regulations upon the subject.'

The following citations abundantly sustain the charge, that the Society
has not swerved from its original design, and does not oppose the system
of slavery:

'Whilst he was up, he would detain the Society for a few
moments. It was proper again and again to repeat, that it was
far from the intention of the Society to affect, _in any
manner_, the tenure by which a certain species of property is
held. He was himself a slaveholder; _and he considered that kind
of property as inviolable as any other in the country_. He would
resist as soon, and with as much firmness, encroachments upon it
as he would encroachments upon any other property which he held.
Nor was he disposed even to go as far as the gentleman who had
just spoken, (Mr Mercer) in saying that he would emancipate his
slaves, if the means were provided of sending them from the
country.' - [Speech of Henry Clay. - First Annual Report.]

'It was proper and necessary distinctly to state, that he
understood it constituted no part of the object of this meeting,
to touch or agitate in the slightest degree, a delicate
question, connected with another portion of the colored
population of our country. It was not proposed to deliberate
upon or consider at all, any question of emancipation, or that
which was connected with the abolition of slavery. It was upon
that condition alone, he was sure, that many gentlemen from the
South and West, whom he saw present, had attended, or could be
expected to co-operate. It was upon that condition only, that he
himself had attended.' - [Speech of Mr Clay before the Society,
Jan. 1, 1818. - Second Annual Report.]

'It had been properly observed by the chairman, as well as by
the gentleman from this District (Messrs Clay and Caldwell) that
there was nothing in the proposition submitted to consideration
which in the smallest degree touched another very important and
delicate question, which ought to be left as much out of view as
possible, (Negro slavery.) * * * Mr R. concluded by saying, that
he had thought it necessary to make these remarks, being a
slaveholder himself, to shew, that, so far from being connected
with the abolition of slavery, _the measure proposed would prove
one of the greatest securities to enable the master to keep in
possession his own property_.' - [Speech of John Randolph at the
same meeting.]

'Your committee would not thus favorably regard the prayer of
the memorialists, if it sought to impair, _in the slightest
degree_, the rights of private property, or the yet more sacred
rights of personal liberty, secured to every description of
freemen in the United States.

'The resolution of the legislature of Virginia, the subsequent
acts and declarations, as well as the high character of the
memorialists themselves, added to the most obvious interest of
the states who have recently sanctioned the purpose, or
recognized the existence of the American Colonization Society,
exclude _the remotest apprehension of such injustice and

- [Report of the committee of the House of Representatives of
the United States, on the memorial of the President and Board of
Managers of the Colonization Society. - Second Annual Report.]

'An effort for the benefit of the blacks, in which all parts of
the country can unite, of course _must not have the abolition of
slavery for its immediate object_. NOR MAY IT AIM DIRECTLY AT
THE INSTRUCTION OF THE BLACKS. In either case, the _prejudices_
and _terrors_ of the slaveholding States would be excited in a
moment; and with reason too, for it is a well-established point,
that _the public safety forbids either the emancipation or the
general instruction of the slaves_.' * * * 'It [African
Colonization] is an enterprise in which _all parts of the
country can unite_. The grand objection to every other effort
is, that it excites the _jealousies_ and _fears_ of the south.
But here is an effort in which the southern people are the first
to engage, and which numbers many of their most distinguished
men among its advocates and efficient supporters.' - [Review of
the Reports of the Society, from the Christian
Spectator. - Seventh Annual Report.]

'It will be seen at home and abroad, that the American
Colonization Society, while it _properly enough_ stands aloof
from the question of slavery, and the abolition of slavery,'
&c. - [Report of William McKenney. - Eighth Annual Report.]

'The objects of this institution are well known to the world;
for no concealment whatever has ever been intended. The Society
aims at the removal of free persons of color; _it interferes, in
no way whatever, with the rights of property_.' - [Speech of G.
W. Custis, Esq. - Ninth Annual Report.]

'We are reproached with doing mischief by the agitation of this
question. The Society goes into no household to disturb its
domestic tranquillity; it addresses itself to no slaves to
weaken their obligations of obedience. _It seeks to affect no
man's property._' - [Speech of Mr Clay. - Tenth Annual Report.]

'The Committee to whom was referred the memorial of the American
Colonization Society, have had the subject under consideration,
and now report:

'That upon due consideration of the said memorial, and from all
other information which your committee has obtained, touching
that subject, they are fully satisfied that no jealousies ought
to exist, on the part of this or any other slaveholding State,
respecting the objects of this Society, or the effects of its
labors.' - [Report of a committee of the Legislature of Delaware,
Feb. 8th, 1827.]

'The Society has reiterated the declaration that it has no
ulterior views diverse from the object avowed in the
constitution; and having declared that it is in nowise allied to
any Abolition Society in America or elsewhere, is ready whenever
AMERICA.' - [Speech of Mr Harrison of Virginia. - Eleventh Annual

'We have the same interests in this subject with our southern
brethren - the same opportunity of understanding it, and of
knowing with what _care_ and _prudence_ it should be approached.
What greater pledge can we give for the moderation and safety of
our measures than our own interests as slaveholders, and the
ties that bind us to the slaveholding communities to which we
belong?' - [Speech of Mr Key. - Same Report.]

'The second objection may be resolved into this; that the
Society, under the specious pretext of removing a vicious and
noxious population, is secretly undermining the rights of
private property. This is the objection expressed in its full
force, and if your memorialists could for a moment believe it to
be true in point of fact, they would never, _slaveholders as
they are_, have associated themselves together for the purpose
of co-operating with the Parent Society; and far less would they
have appeared in the character in which they now do, before the
legislative bodies of a slaveholding State. And, if any instance
could be now adduced, in which the Society has ever manifested
even an intention to depart from the avowed object, for the
promotion of which it was originally instituted, none would with
more willingness and readiness withdraw from it their
countenance and support. But, from the time of its formation,
down to the present period, all its operations have been
directed exclusively to the promotion of its one grand object,
namely, the colonization in Africa of the free people of color
of the United States. It has always protested, and through your
memorialists it again protests, that _it has no wish to
interfere_ with the delicate but important subject of slavery.
It has never, in a solitary instance, addressed itself to the
slave. It has never sought to invade the tranquillity of the
domestic circle, nor the peace and safety of
society.' - [Memorial of the Auxiliary Colonization Society of
Powhatan, to the Legislature of Virginia. - Twelfth Annual

'Therefore she looked, and well might she look, to colonization
and to colonization alone. To abolition _she could not look_,
and need not look. Whatever that scheme may have done,
heretofore, in the States now free, it had done nothing and
could do nothing in the slave States for the cause of humanity.
This subject he rejoiced to know was now better understood, and
all began to see that it was _wiser_ and _safer_ to remove, by
colonization, a great and otherwise insuperable impediment to
emancipation, _than to act upon the subject of emancipation
itself_.' - [Speech of Mr Key. - Thirteenth Annual Report.]

'Our Society has nothing to do directly with the question of
slavery.' * * * 'Whilst the Society protests that it has no
designs on the rights of the master in the slave - or the
property in his slave, which the laws guarantee to him,'
&c. - [Speech of Gerrit Smith, Esq. - Fourteenth Annual Report.]

'Its primary object now is, and ever has been, to colonize, with
their own consent, free people of color on the coast of Africa,
or elsewhere, as Congress may deem expedient. And, Sir, I am
unwilling to admit, under any circumstances, and particularly in
this Hall, that it ever has swerved from this cardinal
object.' - [Speech of Mr Benham. - Fourteenth Annual Report.]

'Something he must yet be allowed to say, as regarded the object
the Society was set up to accomplish. This object, if he
understood it aright, _involved no intrusion on property_, NOR
EVEN UPON PREJUDICE.' - [Speech of Mr Archer of
Virginia. - Fifteenth Annual Report.]

'That the effort made by the Society should be such as to unite
all parts of the country - such as to be in any degree ultimately
successful, it was necessary to _disclaim all attempts for the
immediate abolition of slavery, or the instruction of the great
body of the blacks_. Such attempts would have excited alarm and
jealousy, would have been inconsistent with the public safety,
and defeated the great purposes of the Society.' * * * 'It is
pleasing to learn that the Friends, who at first were not
favorable to the Society, _having been inclined to the immediate
abolition of slavery_, are coming into what we deem the _more
wise policy_ of encouraging emancipation by
colonization.' - [Speech of Harmanus Bleecker, Esq. at the Second
Anniversary Meeting of the New-York Colonization Society, April
14, 1831.]

'The plan of colonization seems _the only one entitled to the
least consideration_.' - [Speech of M. C. Paterson, Esq. on the
same occasion.]

'Nor will their brethren of the North desire to interfere with
their constitutional rights, or rashly to disturb a system
interwoven with their feelings, habits, and prejudices. A golden
mean will be pursued, which, at the same time that it _consults
the wishes_, and _respects the prejudices_ of the South, will
provide for the claims of justice and Christianity, and avert
the storm of future desolation.' - [Speech of Lucius Q. C. Elmer,
Esq. - First Annual Report of the New-Jersey Colonization

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 5 of 29)