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REVIEW OF ANTI-SLAVERY PUBLICATIONS, AND DEFENCE OF
THE COLONIZATION SOCIETY.
By Hon. THEODORE FRELINGHUYSEN, Senator in the United States Congress. Address of the New York Anti-Slavery Society. Printed by West and Trow: New York,
1833.- -Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention, assembled at Philadelphia, Deceinber 6, 1833.
We have read the Address and Declaration above named, with surprise and regret. Had they been content with the fullest developement of their own views and principles, however much we might have differed, we should have felt respect even for the errors of misguided good will. But when the Declaration proceeds to enjoin political action, it is proper its principles should be examined; and when the Address, in a style of singular self-confidence, assails and denounces by name, a respectable Society, that has long been labouring for the welfare of the African race, and, as we believe, with the purest motives; we deem it, in common justice, due to the history and the numerous friends of the Colonization Society, that it should be beard in defence.
We must protest against the exclusive and uncompromising spirit of the Address, as exhibited in the following paragraphs:-"It is our object to recommend the only practicable and safe plan,” &c. And again, "The only wise method of making it (emancipation) entire, is to make it immediate. We take leave to say, that many sober minded men, after deep reflection, believe that a system of gradual abolition is wiser, because happier for the slave, and safer for the country. And with such views, many of the free states have addressed their legislation to this subject. In New York and New Jersey, the abolition of slavery has been the gradual work of the last thirty years. The enlightened statesmen, who have devoted their best thoughts to this interesting subject, did believe that they not only might, but were solemnly bound to aim at less than immediate emancipation, while they were honestly and earnestly seeking the sure and final abolition of slavery.
The Address has collected fragments of speeches, detached remarks of individuals, isolated paragraphs, culled from newspapers and reports of
alri'in! y societies, and, with greater skill than fairness, wore them into !!!!!! Dit ist, by whicli in liv upon the Colonization Society the charge of
stvit 200 risticipation. This mode of conducting a grave discussions, may be di sucressfully ein sloje.l in the countenance of error, as in the support of truth. No other scheme of benevolence could abide such a scrutiny.To hold it responsible for all that has been said of it, or for it, by all men, and under all circumstances, is neither just nor candid. It is, indeed, not trying the cause, but the thousand considerations and motives that may influence its advocates.
The first affirmative point in the conclusions at which the Convention arrive from their premises, is, “That there is no difference in principle, between the African slave trade, and American slavery." By this it is obviuusly meant, that is as wicked for a:1 America:i owner of slaves to retain them, as it is to engage in the African slave trade. The fallacy of this
position is apparent by reference to facis. It is now within a few months of a quarter of a century, since the introduction of slaves into the United States was prohibited, under the sanctions of the Constitution. This is more than equivalent to three lives, as computed in the English law. Slavery, therefore, as it now exists in this country, may be fairly considered rather as an “unblest inheritance” cast upon the present generation, than as its own voluntary criine. And yet, according to the reasoning of the Cone vention, the involuntary recipients of a legacy, which, like Pandora's box, is full of rischief and poison, are as guilty as those who prepared it, or as if they were now to engage, voluntarily and actively, in the abominable traffic. To reason in this manner, is to confound right and wrong, it is to break down the proper distinction between vice and virtue; and to regard intention, or the exercise of will, as nut at all enteriug into the character of criine.
But it is not our present object to follow these publications through all the abstract propositions which they have laid down, most of which have no better foundation, than the sophistry made use of to justify the outrages of the French Revolution. Nor do we propose to enter at large upon the subject of slavery and emancipation. Nor shall we attempt to ascertain, whether all the good that might, under any favourable circumstances, be accomplished, will follow the efforts that are now making by the Colonization Society. Our object is more definite: to defend the Society in its great scheme of Colonization on the coast of Africa. Here, as its humble advo ate, we take our stand. It matters liitle what some may have said in praise, or others urged in condemnation; it must, after all, be sustained or abandoned, as this prominent objec: of the enterprise shall commend itself or not, to the good sense and enlightened conscience of the American people.
In the Address of the Anti-Slavery Society, this object is detounced as inefficient and injurious; not merely as a remedy, quite inadequate, but decidedly hostile to the best interests of the coloured populatiou of the United States. In the Declaration it is alluded to as a scheme of expatrialion, and pronounced cruel, delusive, and dangerous.
The advocates of immediate emancipation regard the Colonization Society as an obstacle in their way, they maintain that it soothes the conscience of the slave holder, and contents him in the enjoyment of slaves as property; and thus retards the advance of free principles.
At the threshold of this argument, we frankly admit, that if such were our deliberate conviction of the nature of this enterprise, we should be among the first to abandon it. But, on the contrary, we believe the measure to be beneficent in all its tendencies; that so far from encouraging slavery, it effectually rebukes it, and will lead the way to its final removal.
Let us calmly examine the scheme in its simplicity and singleness of
purpose. It proposes to colonize, with their own consent, the free people of colour. It is addressed, then, exclusively to the free: and our states abound with such. Holding no right or power of constraint, the Society offers its patronage and protection io all who may be willing to accept of these benefits, and emigrate to Liberia. Now, in the light of truth and Christian principles, is there a feature of such a plan, that should expose it to the charge of cruelty or oppression? Suppose the experiment were yet untried; might it not fairly put in its claims anong the thousand adventures, to which benevolence, coinnerce and science prompt, in this day of enterprise? But it has been tried, to the satisfaction, contentment, and happiness of many hundreds of coloured men. And there are strong reasons which should persuade this people gladly to embrace the offer. However much we may condemn it, the fact is, that the free blacks in this country are in a degraded condition. They are a depressed and separate race; excluded from the privileges of freemen. They enjoy no share of our political, and but a small part of our social privileges. We have seen these causis in constant operation for many years; and however we may and ought to deplore it, yet the depressiou exists, and the lines of separation are as deep and palpable as ever.
If, as we find to be true, this class of our fellow men have not been able suurcessfully to contend against all this unhappy influence, and rise abore their condition; should not a safe and honorable retreat be provided? Let it be granted, that time and better feelings may, in thirty or fifty years, ac. complish for them a partial deliverance; still in the interim, it is worth all the labours of philanthropy to provide a happy resting place, where they may fully enjoy the blessings of society, under a government of their own choice; and where neither prejudice, scorn, nor unkindness shall reach them. Yielding to the opposers all which they urge against the unchristian spirit that estranges from us our coloured brethren;this should be the theme of just xidmonition to us, but forms no plea for casting hindrances in the way of the unhappy victims of these feelings, when they seek a refuge for themselves and their children.
Our first proposition is then, as we think, fairly drawn and fully sustained, that to ihe colonists, Liberia is a substantial blessing. Whether the prejudice which depresses the African in this country be cruel or just, a safe retreat from its frown should be hailed with thankfulness.
Here an objeciion meets us that deserves a distinct consideration. It is. insisted, that the Colonization Society is itself an obstruction in the way of African elevation in this country; that it helps to maintain the distinction of colour, and seriously opposes the progress of emancipation.
Aftur der p reflecrion on this charge, we must believe that it arises from a contracted view of the subjert. It has not reached the great moral bearings of the question. We hope to show, among the direct and legitimate results of ihis enterprise, the elevation of the whole African race, not only in the United States, but throughout the earth.
This unhappy people in our free states are so spread over the land, and their condition is literally so obscure, that they make no distinct impression on the public mind. They are emphatically a people scattered and peeled: as a race of men, and in their condition, they are (so to speak) lost in the crowd. If we could embody them in one neighbourhood, even in all their wretchedness, that would promise more good for them, than their present state. Such a congregation would invite, and perhaps compel our attention; the object would stand out before us in some distinctive features. This Society now takes them out of the great mass, where the publicere cannot fix upon them; gives them a distinct existence, "a loral habitation and a peme," and this, not as slaves, pot as degraded bewers of wood and
drawers of water; but as freemen, pursuing all the business and fulfilling all the duties of a rational and christian community. We look on the map of the world for their dwelling place; we hear of them in their laws, their government and commerce; their citizens come amongst us, as 'men of trade and business. Who can fail to trace in such circumstances, some of the most powerful of moral causes? They must exert an influence that will be deeply felt.
Again: in this distinct community, the demonstration has been made, that the African is equal to the duties of a freeman. His mind expands, as his condition improves. This settlement pleads the cause of freedom with strong and constant emphasis. Its first effect is, to draw forth our sympathies for the black man, not as heretofore, and for long generations, a poor, oppressed and degraded being; but as the elevated citizen of a government, free as our own, favoured as our own, and by the blessing of God, destined to become as populous and great. These sympathies extend themselves over the whole race. Liberia stands the representative of all her people.The most wretched tribe in Africa is raised to a more hopeful condition by this relation. The coloured man, over the whole earth, is reached by this elevating fellowship.
Nor is this all; scope is here afforded for an interesting comparison. The mind will trace it, and mark the contrast between the African at Liberia and his brother among ourselves. The master of slaves will almost unconsciously fall into a train of reflection, that will strikingly distinguish between the abject being under his dominion, and his more favoured kinsman on the coast of Africa. And the plea will be heard and respected"if the simple process of colonization thus brings out the long neglected functions of my fellow man, if I can thus enlarge his capacities for usefulness and happiness; wherefore shall I detain him from such exalted destiny? If I can thus add to the stock of human blessings; justice, reason, and conscience persuade me, that I should delight in the occasion.” And such has been its silent operation. Emancipation has followed closely in the steps of this enterprise.Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, all of them slave-holding states, have by decided manifestations of public sentiment commended and approved of the plans and objects of the Colonization Society. One of these states (Maryland) has devoted two hundred thousand dollars, and another (Virginia) ninety thousand dollars to the cause. Maryland bas at this time an agency in Africa, to establish a colony at Cape Palmas, south of Liberia; and she avows, in distinct and unequivocal terms, the noble purpose of eradicating slavery from her soil.
Moreover, the degraded condition of this people in their own country, has heretofore been one of the palliatives employed to countenance the existence of slavery. And it was often urged, with great truth and effect.Many of the Africans are, probably, improved by their translation to the kind care of humane and generous masters. The results of the Colony, have shorn this apology of all its strength. We no longer look upon Africa as one unbroken mass of ignorance and wretchedness. There are green spots that delight and refresh the eye of Philanthropy; and this Colony is one of them.
These take away the reproach of her desolateness, and raise an argument for her oppressed children, that will be heard and heeded to the ends of the earth. The proprietor of slaves can no longer compose his occasional disquietude, by the plausible pretext, that it fares better with his slaves, than it could at home. The Colony corrects his erroneous estimate. It spreads before him all its rich blessings; points him to a well ordered society, to its halls of legislation, its seats of judgment, and its temples of worship, all filled by redeemed captives, rejoicing in their privileges. It invites him to
look in upon its useful industry and extending commerce, upon its peacelul and hallowed Sabbaths, and its interval tranquillity; and persuades bima, with an energy that no motives ever could before, to turn over a new page on this subject. These considerations have often prevailed with the owners of slaves. They regard the question not, as heretofore, in the light of doninion and property, but in the relations which man sustains to his fellow man.
Strange as this objection must appear to that happy community, that are now gratefully enjoying the fruits of this enterprise on the coast of Africa; yet it is gravely made, and often clamorously urged against the Sovitty, that it seeks to barish our fellow men from the comforts of their native land, and cruelly consign them to the perils of a benighted continent.
Iu the first place, it should not be forgotten, that the Society treats alone with the free, and for freedom's sake. If cur coloured brethren prefer to remain amongst us, let them, with our hearty good will. We compel no Teluctant subinission to terms. Or if any emigrants at Liberia, after full experiment, choose to return, be it so; there is no obstacle in the way:Their welfare has prompted these labours, and should they reject the offers made to them; or after trial, experience none of these premised benefits; the Society has no duty left but that of sincere regret. It possesses neither the power nor the disposition to constrain consent. It is, therefore, a morbid illusion, that can detect any feature of harshness or cruelty in this plan. But to pause a inoment longer at this point; what can there be of unkindDess, in sending children home to the land of their fathers, and there nourishing them by the lights of science, religion, and liberty? And is not Africa such a home? It forms one of the atrocities of the slave trade, that it plunders the fireside of its inmates, and forces men from their home and country against the pleadings of nature and friendship. And when a just sense of contrition springs up in the mind, it is a healthful and mural dictate, that we should repair the trespass, by retracing our steps, and return the kidnapped children to the dwelling-place of their fathers. Let us not oppose this, with blind and inconsiderate hostility. As we would not mar a blessed scheme of mercy, let us calmly and soberly try its claims: and because we may not accomplish all the good that is desirable or practicable, let us not crush an agency that attempts, in soine humble measure, to alleviate the miseries of so large a portion of our race.
This measure derives additional importance from some political considerations, with which it is identified. It is universally agreed, that by the principles of our confederation, the internal concerns of each state are left to its own exclusive cognizance and regulation, and the Federal Government cannot lawfully legislate on the subject of slavery, as it exists in the several states. Prior to the adoption of the federal constitution, the thirteen states were separate and independent governments. There was no political bond to which was given, by concession, the power of control. The state of Mossachusetts, for instance, possessed no more right to interfere with the relations of master and slave in Carolina, than it had to interfere with the relation of prince and cerf in Russia. When the Constitution was framed no such right was acquired, or could be obtained; and a subsequent provision was engrasted, which was merely declaratory of the necessary intendment of the instrument, -that all "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. The precise extent of these
" reserved rights has, in many particulars, been the subject of grave debate; but that they include the right of interfering in the relations of master and slave, no one has had the hardihood to pretend. Such terms as the states respectively chose to insist upon, must necessarily have been acceded to, or the whole compact remain inoperative; and at all events, the slaves of the