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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My next allegation against it is, _that it recognises slaves as
property_. This recognition is not merely technical, or strictly
confined to a statutable interpretation. I presume the advocates of the
Society will attempt to evade this point, by saying that it never meant
to concede the moral right of the masters to possess human beings; but
the evidence against them is full and explicit. The Society, if language
mean any thing, does unequivocally acknowledge property in slaves to be
as legitimate and sacred as any other property, of which to deprive the
owners either by force or by legislation, without making restitution,
would be unjust and tyrannical. Here is the proof:

'It interferes in no wise with the _rights of property_.' * *
'It is utterly opposed to any measures which might infringe upon
the _rights of property_.' * * 'We hold their slaves _as we hold
their other property_, SACRED.' - [African Repository, vol. i.
pp. 39, 225, 283.]

'Does this Society wish to meddle with our slaves as our
_rightful property_? I answer _no_, I think not.' * * 'The
Society cannot be justly charged with aiming to disturb the
_rights of property_ or the peace of society.' * * 'It seeks to
affect no man's _property_.' * * 'To found in Africa, an empire
of _christians and republicans_; to reconduct the blacks to
their native land, without disturbing the order of society, the
_laws of property_, or the rights of individuals,' &c. - [African
Repository, vol. ii. pp. 13, 58, 334, 375.]

'They are also convinced, that the Society have conducted their
operations with so much prudence, as to give no cause of alarm
to the holders of slaves, for the security of _this
property_.' - [African Repository, volume iii. p. 341.]

'The rights of masters are to remain sacred in the eyes of the
Society.' - [African Repository, vol. iv. p. 274.]

'The Society has never interfered, and has no disposition to
interfere with the rights of private property.' * * 'The alarm
for the rights of property appears to have subsided, and the
Society is no longer charged with any sinister or insidious
design. It has constantly disclaimed any intention of disturbing
the rights of others; and its conduct entitles its declaration
to credit.' * * 'The American Colonization Society has, at all
times, solemnly disavowed any purpose of interference with the
institutions or rights of our Southern communities.' * * 'Our
friends, who are cursed with this greatest of human evils
(slavery) deserve our kindest attention and consideration. Their
_property_ and safety are both involved.' - [African Repository,
vol. v. pp. 215, 241, 307, 334.]

'It has constantly disclaimed all intention whatever of
interfering, in the smallest degree, with the rights of
property.' * * 'The Society, from considerations like these,
whilst it disclaims the remotest idea of ever disturbing the
_right of property_ in slaves,' &c. * * 'It is not the object of
this Society to liberate slaves, or touch the rights of
_property_.' * * 'Honorable instances might be adduced of
_disinterested benevolence_ on the part of the owners of slaves,
and of their _sacrificing property_ to a large amount, in their
enfranchisement and restoration to the land of their ancestors.'
* * 'The American Society has disclaimed from the first moment
of its institution, all intention of interfering with _rights of
property_.' * * 'The federal government has no control over this
subject: it concerns rights of property secured by the federal
compact, upon which our civil liberties mainly depend; it is a
part of the same collection of political rights; and _any
invasion of it would impair the tenure by which every other is
held_.' * * 'It is equally plain and undeniable, that the
Society in the prosecution of this work, has never interfered or
evinced even a disposition to interfere in any way with the
_rights of proprietors of slaves_.' * * 'The slaveholder, so far
from having just cause to complain of the Colonization Society,
has reason to congratulate himself, that in this Institution a
channel is opened up, in which the public feeling and public
action can flow on, without doing violence to his
_rights_.' - [African Repository, vol. vi. pp. 13, 69, 81, 153,
165, 169, 205, 363.]

'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_.' - [Speech of Henry
Clay. - First Annual Report.]

'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_.' - [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.]

'The Society has at all times recognised the constitutional and
LEGITIMATE existence of slavery.' - [Tenth Annual Report.]

'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.' - [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.' - [Fifteenth Annual Report.]

'To the slaveholder, who had charged upon them the wicked design
of interfering with the RIGHTS OF PROPERTY under the specious
pretext of removing a vicious and dangerous free population,
they address themselves in a tone of conciliation and sympathy.
We know your rights, say they, and _we respect them_.' * *
'Equally absurd and false is the objection, that this Society
seeks indirectly to disturb the rights of property, and to
interfere with the well established relation subsisting between
master and slave.' - [African Repository, vol. vii. pp. 100,

'I repeat, that though not a slaveholder, yet I think that every
man ought to be protected in his property, and as the laws of
our country have decreed that negroes are property, every person
that holds a slave, according to these laws, ought to be
protected.' - ['A new and interesting View of Slavery.' By
Humanitas, a colonization advocate. Baltimore, 1820.]

'We are made to disregard this description of _property_, and to
touch without reserve the _rights_ of our
neighbors.' - [Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the
New-Jersey Colonization Society.]

Thus the American Colonization Society shamelessly surrenders the claims
of justice, and leaves the enemies of oppression weaponless! Hence it
rejects the proposition, that _man cannot hold property in man_; and we
are called upon to prove that which is self-evident. No accidental
differences of condition or complexion - no vicissitudes of fortune - no
reprisal or purchase or inheritance, can justly make one individual the
slave of another. When God created man, he gave him dominion over the
fowls of the air and the beasts of the field; but not over his fellow
man. 'All men are born free and equal,' and are 'made of one blood.'
Shall we look to wealth as giving one a title to the labor and freedom
of another? Wealth is the creature of circumstances, and not an
arbitrary law of nature. It takes to itself wings, and flies away; and
he who is an opulent tyrant to-day, may on this principle be an
impoverished slave to-morrow. Does physical strength make valid this
claim? This, too, is evanescent: sickness and age would ultimately
degrade the most muscular tyrants to servitude; and mankind would be
composed of but two parties - the strong and the weak. Can high birth
annul the rights of the lower classes? There is no difference at their
birth, between the children of the beggar and those of the king. 'We
brought nothing into this world,' says an inspired apostle, 'and it is
certain we can carry nothing out.'

Man is created a rational being; and therefore he is a subject of moral
government, and accountable. Being rational and accountable, he is bound
to improve his mind and intellect. With this design, his Creator has
outstretched the heavens, and set the sun in his course, and hung out
the burning jewels of the sky, and spread abroad the green earth, and
poured out the seas, that he might steadily progress in knowledge.

The slaves are men; they were born, then, as free as their masters; they
cannot be property; and he who denies them an opportunity to improve
their faculties, comes into collision with Jehovah, and incurs a fearful
responsibility. But we know that they are not treated like rational
beings, and that oppression almost entirely obliterates their sense of
moral obligation to God or man.

I fully coincide in opinion with the authoress of a work entitled,
'IMMEDIATE, NOT GRADUAL ABOLITION,' that the holder of a slave, whether
he obtained him by purchase or by inheritance, is as guilty as the
original thief.[K] The wretch who stole him could by no possible means
acquire or transmit the right to make a slave of him, or to keep him in
slavery. _He has a right to his liberty:_ - through whatever number of
transfers the usurpation of it may have passed, the right is

No man, says Algernon Sidney, can have a right over others, unless it be
by them granted to him: That which is not just, is not law; and that
which is not law, ought not to be in force: Whosoever grounds his
pretensions of right upon usurpation and tyranny, declares himself to be
an usurper and a tyrant - that is, an enemy to God and man - and to have
no right at all: _That which was unjust in its beginning, can of itself
to be free is a truth planted in the hearts of men, and acknowledged so
to be by all who have hearkened to the voice of nature, and disproved by
none but such as through wickedness, stupidity, or baseness of spirit,
seem to have degenerated into the worst of beasts, and to have retained
nothing of men but the outward shape, or the ability of doing those
mischiefs which they have learnt from their master the devil.

The following is the indignant, emphatic, eloquent language of HENRY
BROUGHAM, on the subject of slave property:

'_Tell me not of rights - talk not of the property of the planter
PROPERTY. The principles, the feelings of our common nature,
rise in rebellion against it. Be the appeal made to the
understanding or to the heart, the sentence is the same that
rejects it. In vain you tell me of the laws that sanction such a
claim! There is a law above all the enactments of human
codes - the same throughout the world, the same in all
times - such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus
pierced the night of ages, and opened to one world the sources
of power, wealth and knowledge; to another, all unutterable
woes; - such it is at this day: it is the law written by the
finger of God on the heart of man; and by that law, unchangeable
and eternal, while men despise fraud, and loathe rapine, and
abhor blood, they shall reject with indignation the wild and
guilty fantasy, that man can hold property in man! In vain you
appeal to treaties, to covenants between nations. The covenants
of the Almighty, whether the old or the new, denounce such
unholy pretensions. To those laws did they of old refer, who
maintained the African trade. Such treaties did they cite, and
not untruly; for by one shameful compact, you bartered the
glories of Blenheim for the traffic in blood. Yet, in despite of
law and of treaties, that infernal traffic is now destroyed, and
its votaries put to death like other pirates. How came this
change to pass? Not assuredly by parliament leading the way; but
the country at length awoke; the indignation of the people was
kindled; it descended in thunder, and smote the traffic, and
scattered its guilty profits to the winds. Now, then, let the
planters beware - let their assemblies beware - let the government
at home beware - let the parliament beware! the same country is
once more awake, - awake to the condition of negro slavery; the
same indignation kindles in the bosom of the same people; the
same cloud is gathering that annihilated the slave trade; and,
if it shall descend again, they, on whom its crash shall fall,
will not be destroyed before I have warned them; but I pray that
their destruction may turn away from us the more terrible
judgments of God!'

Is this the language of fanaticism? Is Henry Brougham a madman?

The following extracts must close the evidence in support of my third
allegation, that the Colonization Society disregards the fundamental
principle of human liberty and equality, that man cannot hold _property_
in man:

'Let me ask, who can wish under existing circumstances that the
constitution should be altered, when it must bring with it a
_violation of property_ - and when that violation of private
property must engender such hostility of feelings, and elicit
such bitter vituperation? The whole Union would feel a
concussion, and no one can count the costs of the contest.'
* * * 'By means of our colony, they may remove their slaves and
restore them to freedom - and at the same time no way jeopardize
the safety of themselves or their _property_.' - [Proceedings of
the First Annual Meeting of the New-Jersey Colonization

'The establishment of our colony will afford facilities to
proprietors for completing in Africa the exercise of the _right
which can only be partially exercised in this country, of
disposing of our property, in our own way, without injury to the
community_.' - [Fourteenth Annual Report.]

What audacity do those advocates of the Society exhibit, who use, in
reference to beings made a little lower than the angels, language like
this - 'disposing of _our property_ in _our own way_' - 'we hold their
_slaves_, as we hold their other _property_, SACRED'!![L] If they really
mean and believe what they say, it is something more heinous than
impertinence to urge the planters to dispossess themselves of their
property by colonization; and if the slaves belong _of right_ to
them, - are on a par with goods and chattels, - how idle, how supremely
ridiculous it is to mourn over their _wretched condition_, to sigh for
their emancipation, to declaim against the evil and wickedness of
slavery, or even to denounce the slave trade! But the unfortunate blacks
are not now, and never can be, the property of the planters;
consequently the claims of their pretended owners are no better than
those of the pirate or highway robber.


[K] The owners of slaves are licensed robbers, and not the just
proprietors of what they claim: freeing them is not depriving them of
property, but restoring it to the right owner; it is suffering the
unlawful captive to escape. It is not wronging the master, but doing
justice to the slave, restoring him to himself. Emancipation would only
take away property that is its own property, and not ours; property that
has the same right to possess us, as we have to possess it; property
that has the same right to convert our children into dogs and calves and
colts, as we have to convert theirs into these beasts; property that may
transfer our children to strangers, by the same right that we transfer
theirs. - _Rice._

[L] 'Is there no difference between a vested interest in a house or a
tenement, and a vested interest in a human being? No difference between
a right to bricks and mortar, and a right to the flesh of man - a right
to torture his body and to degrade his mind at your good will and
pleasure? There is this difference, - the right to the house originates
in law, and is reconcilable to justice; the claim (for I will not call
it a right) to the man, originated in robbery, and is an outrage upon
every principle of justice, and every tenet of religion.' - _Speech of
Fowell Buxton in the British Parliament._



I come now to my fourth charge, - which, although not more serious or
consequential than any of the foregoing, may possibly create more
surprise, - namely, that the Society _increases the value of slaves, and
adds strength and security to the system of slavery_. It is the
discovery of this fact that is so wonderfully, and to many superficial
observers so inexplicably, increasing the popularity of the Society at
the south. It would require more pages of this work than its necessarily
contracted limits permit, to sum up minutely the evidence on this point,
and to give those illustrations which might serve more clearly to
establish its validity. The most common, as it is the most potent,
argument used by colonization agents among slave owners, to secure their
patronage, is, - 'The successful prosecution of our scheme will remove
the chief source of danger to yourselves, and enable you to hold your
property in greater security: the presence of free persons of color
among your slaves is eminently calculated to make them insubordinate,
and to procure their violent emancipation.' This argument, I say, is
introduced into every conversation, and every public address, and every
essay; and whoever carefully consults the numbers of the African
Repository, through seven volumes, will find it repeated in almost every
appeal to the south.

I choose to consider the testimony of southern men, in regard to the
invigorating effects of the colonization enterprise upon the system of
slavery, conclusive. Here is a very small portion of it: more may be
found under the sixth section of this work.

'The object of the Colonization Society commends itself to every
class of society. The landed proprietor may ENHANCE THE VALUE OF
HIS PROPERTY by assisting the enterprise.' - [African Repository,
vol. i. p. 67.]

'But is it not certain, that should the people of the Southern
States refuse to adopt the opinions of the Colonization Society,
[relative to the gradual abolition of slavery,] and continue to
consider it both just and politic to leave, untouched, a system,
for the termination of which, we think the whole wisdom and
energy of the States should be put in requisition, that they
OF THIS SYSTEM, by removing those now free, than by any or all
other methods which can possibly be devised? Such has been the
opinion expressed by Southern gentlemen of the first talents and
distinction. Eminent individuals have, we doubt not, lent their
aid to this cause, in expectation of at once accomplishing a
generous and noble work for the objects of their patronage and
for Africa, and GUARDING THAT SYSTEM, the existence of which,
though _unfortunate_, they deem _necessary_, by separating from
it those, whose disturbing force augments its inherent vices,
and darkens all the repulsive attributes of its character. In
the decision of these individuals, as to the effects of the
Colonization Society, _we perceive no error of judgment_: OUR
BELIEF IS THE SAME AS THEIRS.' - [Idem, p. 227.]

ii. p. 344.]

'The removal of every single free black in America, would be
productive of nothing but safety to the slaveholder, nor would
the emancipation of as many as the benevolence of individual
masters would send off, as far as I can see, be productive of
disaffection among the remainder, more than the example of such
as are every day set free, and sent to the Ohio or elsewhere;
and if so large a part should ever be set free as to create
discontent among the remainder, (and nothing but the
emancipation of a great majority can do this,) yet that
remainder must then, from the terms of the proposition, be so
much diminished, as to be easily kept down by superior
numbers.' - [Idem, vol. iii. p. 202.]

'The tendency of the scheme, and one of its objects, is to
_secure slaveholders and the whole Southern country_, against
certain evil consequences, growing out of the present threefold
mixture of our population.' - [Idem, vol. iv. p. 274.]

'We all know the effects produced on our slaves by the
fascinating, but delusive appearance of happiness, exhibited in
persons of their own complexion, roaming in idleness and vice
among them. By removing the most fruitful source of discontent
from among our slaves, we should render them more industrious
and attentive to our commands; and by rendering them more
industrious and obedient, we should naturally secure their
better treatment - we should ameliorate their condition. Our
enemies have admitted that good would result from the removal of
this class. Caius Gracchus declares, that if the Society could
attain "this single object in good faith, (the removal of the
free people of color) he should, perhaps, be among the last
citizens in the commonwealth - who would raise his voice against
it," and the author of the Crisis (who is doubtless regarded as
authority in South Carolina) acknowledges, "that there is no
doubt but that if we in the South, were relieved of this
population, it would be better for our southern cities, where
they principally reside." Nothing can be more plain then, than
that the Colonization Society, in its efforts to remove the free
people of color, is accomplishing a work to which the citizens
of the South, whether friends or foes to the Society, have given
their decided approbation.' - [Idem, vol. vi. p. 205.]

'If, as is most confidently believed, the colonization of the
free people of color will render the slave who remains in
America more obedient, more faithful, more honest, and,
consequently, _more useful to his master_,' &c. - [Second Annual

'There was but one way, [to avert danger,] but that might be
made effectual, fortunately! It was to PROVIDE AND KEEP OPEN A
EMPLOYMENT. Mr Archer had been stating the case in the
supposition, that after the present class of free blacks had
been exhausted, by the operation of the plan he was
recommending, others would be supplied for its action, in the
proportion of the excess of colored population it would be
necessary to throw off, by the process of voluntary manumission
or sale. This effect must result inevitably from the
depreciating value of the slaves ensuing their disproportionate
multiplication. _The depreciation would be relieved and retarded
at the same time, by the process._ The two operations would aid
reciprocally, and sustain each other, and both be in the highest
degree beneficial. It was on the ground of interest, therefore,
the most indisputable _pecuniary interest_, that he addressed
himself to the people and Legislatures of the slaveholding
States.' - [Speech of Mr Archer. - Fifteenth Annual Report.]

'Every motive which operates on the minds of slaveholders,
tending to make the colonization of the free blacks an object of
_interest_ to them, should operate in an equal degree to secure
the hearty co-operation of the government of every slaveholding
State.' - [African Repository, vol. vii. p. 176.]

'None are obliged to follow our example; AND THOSE WHO DO NOT,
OF OURS.' - [An advocate of colonization in the Western (Ky.)

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 9 of 29)