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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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of Him who went about doing good, and steal, enslave, torment, starve
and scourge a man because his skin is of a different tinge! Such
Christianity is the Devil's manufacture to delude souls to the regions
of wo.' - REV. GEORGE BOURNE.

[J] 'We are told not to meddle with vested rights: I have a sacred
feeling about vested rights; but when vested rights become vested
wrongs, I am less scrupulous about them.' - _Speech of Rev. Mr. Burnett,
of England._




SECTION II.

THE AMERICAN COLONIZATION SOCIETY APOLOGISES FOR SLAVERY AND
SLAVEHOLDERS.


My charges against the American Colonization Society acquire breadth and
solemnity as I progress in my task. I have fairly and abundantly
sustained my first, - _that the Society is not the enemy of the
slave-system_; and I now proceed to prove my second, - _that it
apologises for slavery and slaveholders_.

'There is a golden mean, which all who would pursue the solid
interest and reputation of their country may discern at the very
heart of their confederation, and will both advocate and
enforce - a principle, of justice, conciliation and humanity - a
principle, sir, which is not inconsistent with itself, and yet
can sigh over the degradation of the slave, _defend the wisdom
and prudence of the South against the charge of studied and
pertinacious cruelty_,' &c. - [Address of Robert F. Stockton,
Esq. at the Eighth Annual Meeting of the Parent Society.]


'It is a fact, given us on the most unquestionable authority,
that there are now in the southern States of our union,
hundreds, and even thousands of proprietors, who would gladly
give liberty to their slaves, but are deterred by the
apprehension of doing injury to their country, and perhaps to
the slaves themselves.' - [Discourse by the Rev. Dr.
Dana. - African Repository, vol. i. p. 145.]


'Guarding that system, the existence of which, though
_unfortunate_, THEY DEEM NECESSARY.' - [African Repository, vol.
i. p. 227.]


'We all know from a variety of considerations which it is
unnecessary to name, and in consequence of the policy which is
obliged to be pursued in the southern States, that it is
extremely difficult to free a slave, and hence the enactment of
those laws _which a fatal necessity seems to demand_.' - [African
Repository, vol. ii. p. 12.]


'They are convinced, that there are now hundreds of masters who
are so only from _necessity_.' - [Memorial of the Society to the
several States. - A. R. vol. ii. p. 60.]


'_I do not condemn_, let me be understood, _their detention in
bondage_ under the circumstances which are yet existing.' - ['The
Colonization Society Vindicated.' - Idem, vol. iii. p. 201.]


'A third point in which the first promoters of this object were
united, is, that few individual slaveholders can, in the present
state of things, emancipate their slaves if they would. There is
a certain relation between the proprietor of slaves and the
beings thus thrown upon him, which is far more complicated, and
far less easily dissolved, than a mind unacquainted with the
subject is ready to imagine. The relation is one which, where it
exists, grows out of the very structure of society, and for the
existence of which, the master is ordinarily as little
accountable as the slave.'

'He [the planter] looks around him and sees that the condition
of the great mass of emancipated Africans is one _in comparison
with which the condition of his slaves is enviable_; - and he is
convinced that if he withdraws from his slaves his authority,
his support, his protection, and leaves them to shift for
themselves, he turns them out to be vagabonds, and paupers, and
felons, and to find in the work-house and the penitentiary, the
home which they ought to have retained on his paternal
acres. - Hundreds of humane and Christian slaveholders retain
their fellow-men in bondage, because _they are convinced that
they can do no better_.' - [Address of the Managers of the
Colonization Society of Connecticut. - Af. Rep. vol. iv. pp. 119,
120.]


'I AM NOT COMPLAINING OF THE OWNERS OF SLAVES; they cannot get
rid of them. - _I do not doubt that masters treat their slaves
with kindness_, nor that the slaves are happier than they could
be if set free in this country.' - [Address delivered before the
Hampden Col. Soc., July 4th, 1828, by Wm. B. O. Peabody, Esq.]


'_Policy_, and even _the voice of humanity_ forbade the progress
of manumission; and the _salutary hand of law_ came forward to
co-operate with our convictions, and to arrest the flow of our
feelings, and the ardor of our desires.' - [Review of the Report
of the Committee of Foreign Relations. - Af. Rep. vol. iv. p.
268.]


'When an owner of slaves tells me that he will freely relinquish
his slaves, or even that he will relinquish one-half of their
value, _on condition that he be compensated for the other half_,
and provision be made for their transportation, I feel that he
has made a generous proposal, and _I cannot charge him with all
the guilt of slavery_, though he may continue to be a
slaveholder.' - [Af. Rep. vol. v. p. 63.]


'Even slavery must be viewed as a great national calamity; a
public evil entailed upon us by untoward circumstances, _and
perpetuated for the want of appropriate remedies_.' - [Idem, vol.
v. p. 89.]


'Slavery is an evil which is entailed upon the present
generation of slaveholders, which they must suffer, _whether
they will or not_.' - [Idem, p. 179.]


'Our brethren of the South, have the same sympathies, the same
moral sentiments, the same love of liberty as ourselves. By them
as by us, slavery is felt to be an evil, a hindrance to our
prosperity, and a blot upon our character. But it was in being
when they were born, and has been forced upon them by a previous
generation.' - [Address of Rev. Dr. Nott. - Idem, p. 277.]


'With a writer in the Southern Review we say, "the situation of
the people of these States was not of their choosing. When they
came to the inheritance, it was subject to this mighty
incumbrance, and it would be criminal in them to rain or waste
the estate, to get rid of the burden at once." With this writer
we add also, in the language of Captain Hall, that the
"slaveholders ought not (immediately) to disentangle themselves
from the obligations which have devolved upon them, as the
masters of slaves." We believe that a master _may_ sustain his
relation to the slave, with as little criminality as the slave
sustains his relation to the master.' * * * 'Slavery, in its
mildest form, is an evil of the darkest character. Cruel and
unnatural in its origin, no plea can be urged in justification
of its continuance but the plea of _necessity_.' - [Af. Rep. vol.
v. pp. 329, 334.]


'How much more consistent and powerful would be our example, but
for that population within our limits, whose condition
(_necessary_ condition, I will not deny) is so much at war with
our institutions, and with that memorable national
Declaration - "that all men are created equal."' - [Fourteenth
Ann. Report.]


'_It_ [the Society] _condemns no man because he is a
slaveholder._' * * * 'They [abolitionists] confound the
_misfortunes_ of one generation with the crimes of another, and
would sacrifice both individual and public good to an
_unsubstantial theory of the rights of man_.' - [A. R. vol. vii.
pp. 200, 202.]


'Many thousand individuals in our native State, you well know,
Mr President, are restrained, said Mr Mercer, from manumitting
their slaves, as you and I are, by the melancholy conviction,
that they cannot yield to the suggestions of humanity, without
manifest injury to their country.' * * * 'The laws of Virginia
now discourage, and very wisely, perhaps, the emancipation of
slaves.' - [Speech of Mr Mercer. - First Annual Report.]


'We are ready even to grant, for our present purpose, that, so
far as mere animal existence is concerned, the slaves have no
reason to complain, and the friends of humanity have no reason
to complain for them.' * * * 'There are men in the southern
states, who long to do something effectual for the benefit of
their slaves, and would gladly emancipate them, did not
_prudence_ and _compassion_ alike forbid such a
measure.' - [Review of the Reports of the Society, from the
Christian Spectator. - Seventh Annual Report.]


'Such unhappily is the case; but there is a _necessity_ for it,
[for oppressive laws,] and so long as they remain amongst us
will that necessity continue.' - [Ninth Annual Report.]


'I MAY BE PERMITTED TO DECLARE THAT I WOULD BE A SLAVEHOLDER
TO-DAY WITHOUT SCRUPLE.' - [Fourteenth Annual Report.]


'For the existence of slavery in the United States, those, and
those only, are accountable who bore a part in originating such
a constitution of society. The bible contains no explicit
prohibition of slavery. There is neither chapter nor verse of
holy writ, which lends any countenance to the fulminating spirit
of universal emancipation, of which some exhibitions may be seen
in some of the newspapers.' * * * 'The embarrassment which many
a philanthropic proprietor has felt in relation to his slaves,
has been but little known at the north, and has had but little
sympathy. He finds himself the lord of perhaps a hundred human
beings; and is anxious to do them all the good in his power. He
would emancipate them; but if he does, their prospect of
happiness can hardly be said to be improved by the change. Some
half a dozen, perhaps, in the hundred, become industrious and
useful members of society; and the rest are mere vagabonds,
idle, wicked, and miserable.'

- [Review on African Colonization. - Vide the Christian Spectator
for September, 1830, in which the reader will find an elaborate
apology for the system of slavery, and this, too, by a
clergyman!]


'The existence of slavery among us, though not at all to be
objected to our southern brethren as a _fault_, is yet a blot on
our national character, and a mighty drawback from our national
strength.' - [Second Annual Report of the N. Y. State Col. Soc.]


'Entertaining these views of this fearful subject, why should
our opponents endeavor to prejudice our cause with our southern
friends? And we are the more anxious on this point, for we
sincerely entertain exalted notions of their sense of right, of
their manliness and independence of feeling - of their dignity of
deportment - of their honorable and chivalric turn of thought,
which spurns a mean act as death. And if I was allowed to
indulge a personal feeling, I would say that there is something
to my mind in the candor, hospitality and intelligence of the
South, which charms and captives, which wins its way to the
heart and gives assurance of all that is upright, honorable, and
humane. There is no people that treat their slaves with so
little cruelty and with so much kindness. There is nothing in
the condition of slavery more congenial with the feelings of the
South than with the feelings of the North. Philanthropy and
benevolence flourish with as much vigor with them as with
us - their hearts are as warm as ours - they feel for the
distresses of others with as much acuteness as we do - their ears
are as open to the calls of charity as ours - they as deeply
regret as we do the existence of slavery - and oh! how their
hearts would thrill with delight, if the mighty incubus could be
removed without injury or destruction to every thing around
them.' - [Speech of James S. Green, Esq. on the same occasion.]


'Many of the best citizens of our land are holders of slaves,
and hold them IN STRICT ACCORDANCE WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF
HUMANITY AND JUSTICE.' - [Rev. Thomas T. Skillman, editor of the
Western Luminary, an ardent supporter of the Col. Soc.]


'It is a very common impression that a principal evil of the
condition of the southern blacks, is the severity of their
treatment. THIS IS AN ERROR. It is almost every where
disreputable to treat slaves with severity; and though there are
indeed exceptions, yet in most cases in the South, even tyranny
itself could not long withstand the reproaches of public
opinion. A STILL GREATER AND MORE DANGEROUS EVIL, IS THE VERY
REVERSE. It is _indulgence_; not only in such things as are
proper and innocent, but in indolent habits and vicious
propensities.'

- [From an address prepared for the use of those who advocate
the cause of the African Education Society at Washington - a
Society which educates none but those who consent to remove to
Liberia.]


'How should a benevolent Virginian, in view of the fact, that
out of thirty-seven thousand free people of color in his State,
only two hundred were proprietors of land, how should he be in
favor of general emancipation? But, show him, that if he will
emancipate his slaves, there is a way in which he can without
doubt improve their condition, while he rids himself of a
grievous burden, and he will promptly obey the demands of
justice - he will then feel that his generous wishes can with
certainty be fulfilled. While he knows that scarcely any thing
is done to meliorate the condition of those now free, and
reflects on the many obstacles in the way of doing it in this
land, he feels bound by a regard to what he owes himself - his
children - his country, and even his slaves themselves, not to
emancipate them. For he is sure, that, by emancipation, he will
only add to the wretchedness of the one, and at the same time
put at imminent hazard the dearest interests of the other. Thus
he is forced to refrain from manumission, and not only so, but
against all his benevolent inclinations, he is forced to
co-operate with his fellow-citizens in sustaining the present
system of slavery. He would most cheerfully follow the impulse
of his noblest feelings - he would remove the curse which the
short-sighted policy of his fathers entailed upon him; but he
cannot disregard the first law of nature; especially not, when,
were he to do it, he would render the _curse_ still more
calamitous in its consequences.' - [An advocate of the
Colonization Society in the Middletown (Connecticut) Gazette.]


'Slavery is indeed a curse; and bitter is the lot of him who is
born with slaves on his hands. And now, instead of denouncing as
inhuman and unmerciful monsters and tyrants, those who are thus
_unfortunate_, I say, let the commiseration and pity of every
good citizen and christian in the land be excited, and let
fervent prayers be offered in their behalf, and that God would
direct the whole American mind to the adoption of the most
effectual measures for the accomplishment of the total abolition
of slavery.' - [New-Haven Religious Intelligencer for July 16,
1831.]


'Special reference will also be had to the condition and wishes
of the slave States. In most of them it is a prevailing
sentiment, that it is not safe to furnish slaves with the means
of instruction. Much as we lament the reasons for this
sentiment, and the _apparent necessity_ of keeping a single
fellow creature in ignorance, we willingly leave to others the
consideration and the remedy of this evil, in view of the
overwhelming magnitude of the remaining objects before
us.' - [Address of the Board of Managers of the African Education
Society of the United States.]


'And when we [of New-England] did emancipate our slaves, we were
driven to the measure by the force of example; and we did not do
it until it was found quite convenient; and then what provision
was made for the poor blacks? Let our State Prison records
answer the question. Our Southern brethren have been _more
kind_: they will not emancipate them until they send them where
they can enjoy _liberty_, more than in name. As a Northern man I
feel it my duty, and I take pleasure in giving the _meed of
praise_ to my Southern brethren.' - [Speech of Rev. Mr Gallaudet,
at a colonization meeting in New-York city.]


'The slave works for his master, who feeds and clothes him,
defends him from harm, and takes care of him when he is sick.
The free colored man works for himself, and has nobody to take
care of him but himself.'

- [From a little colonization work, published in Baltimore in
1828, 'for the use of the African Schools in the United
States'!! entitled 'A Voice from Africa.']


'The slaveholder will tell you, that he did not take liberty
from the African - he was a slave when he found him, and he is no
more than a slave yet. The man who owns one hundred acres of
land more than he can cultivate himself, is as much a
slaveholder as he who owns a slave.' - [An advocate of
colonization in the Richmond (Indiana) Palladium for Oct. 1,
1831.]


'I DO NOT MEAN TO SPEAK OF SLAVERY AS A SYSTEM OF CRUELTY AND OF
SUFFERING. On this point I am free to say, from personal
observation and occasional residences for some years at the
South, there has been much misapprehension among our
fellow-citizens of the North. And I rejoice to add, that _the
condition of the slaves generally is such as the friends of
humanity have no reason to complain of_.' - [Oration delivered at
Newark, N. J. July 4th, 1831, by Gabriel P. Disosway, Esq.]


'Slavery, it is true, is an evil - a national evil. Every
laudable effort to exterminate it should be encouraged. And we
presume that nine-tenths of the slaveholders themselves, would
rejoice at the event, could it be accomplished, of the entire
freedom from the country of every person of color, and would
willingly relinquish every slave in their possession. But the
slaves _are_ in their possession - they are entailed upon them by
their ancestors. And can they set them free, and still suffer
them to remain in the country? Would this be policy? Would it be
safe? No. When they can be transported to the soil from whence
they were derived - by the aid of the Colonization Society, by
Government, by individuals, or by any other means - then let them
be emancipated, and not before.' - [Lowell (Mass.) Telegraph.]

It is a self-evident proposition, that just so far as you alleviate the
pressure of guilt upon the consciences of evil doers, you weaken the
power of motive to repent, and encourage them to sin with impunity. To
descant upon the wrongs of the slave-system, and yet exonerate the
supporters of it from reprehension, is to deal in absurdities: we might
preach in this manner until the crack of doom, and never gain a convert.
Paradoxes may amuse, but they never convince the mind.

Now, I defy the most ingenious advocates of perpetual slavery to produce
stronger arguments in its favor than are given in the foregoing
extracts. What better plea could they make? what higher justification
could they need? Nay, these apologies of colonizationists represent
oppression not merely as innocent, but even commendable - as a system of
benevolence, upheld by philanthropists and sages!

'I do not condemn the detention of the slaves in bondage under the
circumstances which are yet existing,' says an advocate; by which
consolatory avowal we are taught that the criminality of man-stealing
depends upon _circumstances_, and not upon the fact that it is a daring
violation of the rights of man and the laws of God.

'The planter sees that the condition of the great mass of emancipated
Africans is one, in comparison with which the condition of his slaves is
_enviable_,' assert the Board of Managers! - a concession which
transforms robbery into generosity, cruelty into mercy, and leads the
slaveholder to believe that, instead of deserving censure, his conduct
is really meritorious! - a concession which is at war with common sense,
and contrary to truth.

'I am not complaining of the owners of slaves - I do not doubt that the
slaves are happier than they could be if set free in this country,'
declares an apologist, even in Massachusetts! Stripes and servitude
would doubtless soon alter his opinion. With him, to sell human beings
at public auction, and to separate husbands and wives, and children and
parents, is not a subject of complaint! and to be a slave, to be fed
upon a peck of corn per week, unable to possess property, liable to be
torn from the partner of his bosom and children at a moment's warning
mal-treated worse than a brute, &c. &c. &c. is more desirable than to be
a free man, able to acquire wealth, unrestricted in his movements, from
whom none may wrest his wife or children, and who can find redress for
any outrage upon his person or property!

'Policy, and even _humanity_,' cries another, 'forbid the progress of
manumission'! Indeed! But is it right to hold our fellow creatures as
chattels, and to perpetuate their ignorance and servitude? O no! this is
_wrong_, but it would be a greater wrong to emancipate them! Is this
folly or villany? To oppress our brother is wrong, but to cease from
oppressing him would not be right!

'I would be a slaveholder to-day without scruple,' says another
advocate.

'Many owners of slaves,' another declares, 'hold them in strict
accordance with the principles of humanity and justice'!!! Yes, to
deprive men of their inalienable rights is to do unto them as we would
have them do unto us!

Finally, another boldly declares that the slaves are treated _too
indulgently_! - The laws which regard them as beasts, but punish them for
the commission of crime as severely as if they possessed the knowledge
of angels, he must suppose are too lenient. Their allowance of corn is
too liberal; they ought not to wear any raiment; to sleep in their
wretched huts is calculated to make them effeminate - the open field is a
more suitable place for cattle; no religious instruction should be
granted even orally to them! The slaves, as a body, too kindly treated!
The Lord have compassion upon any of their number who shall come under
the control of him who holds this opinion!

Sentiments, like these, act upon the consciences of slave owners like
opiates upon the body, lulling them into a slumber as profound and fatal
as death. It were almost as hopeless a task to attempt to arouse, alarm
and animate them, so long as they repose under the stupefying effects of
this poison, as to raise the dead. This must not be. Slaveholders are
the enemies of God and man; their garments are red with the blood of
souls; their guilt is aggravated beyond the power of language to
describe; and they must be made to see and realise their awful
condition. Truth must send its arrows into their consciences, and Terror
rouse them to exertion, and Conviction bring them upon their knees, and
Repentance propitiate the anger of Heaven, or they perish by the sword.
The slaves must be free; and He who is no respecter of person is now
holding out to us this alternative - either to wait until they burst
their chains and wade through a river of blood to freedom, or to
liberate them willingly ourselves. Can we hesitate in our choice? Be
this our only reply to those who apologise for the oppressors, and fix
the standard of policy higher than that of duty: 'Wo unto them that call
evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for
darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Wo unto them
that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! which
justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the
righteous from him!'




SECTION III.

THE AMERICAN COLONIZATION SOCIETY RECOGNISES SLAVES AS PROPERTY.


The heresies of this combination are flagrant and numerous. A larger
volume than this is needed to define and illustrate them all. Much
important evidence, and many pertinent reflections, I am compelled to
suppress.



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 8 of 29)