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cal amalgamation,--a result forbidden by invincible objections: The Colonization Society witnessing this state of things and the consequent evils, and aware of its own ipability to remove them, offered its aid to the practicable object of removing the sufferers under them: The terms of the removal were an exchange of "civil disabilities," "disfranchisement" and "exclusion from sympathy,” for the plenary enjoyment of civil and political liberty, elevation of character, and advancement in the scale of social
After the fierce introduction on which we have been remarking; Mr. Birney classifies his objections to Colonization, under the following general heads :-1. The practical influence of Colonization upon the whites; 2. Upon the coloured population; and 3. Upon Africa; which principal topics are, of course, divided into a goodly number of subordinate heads.
The discussion of the first of these grand divisions, cominences with the following postulate :
"All great revolutions of sentiment in masses of men, calling, of course, for a corresponding change of action, must lay their foundation in some great principle (or principles,) undeniably true in theory; which all the facts pertaining to it, when taken singly, tend to prove, and taken together, fully establish as true, to all unprejudiced minds."
This theory is then elongated into several ramifications, theological, moral and political, of which we shall notice the last, as illustrating the inaptitude of the writer's course of reasoning to practical subjects:
“What,” he asks," was the great truth, or principle, upon which the American revolution was supported? Was it any other than this, that all men were created equal? This was the trunk tbrowing out towards heaven its noble branches, that they are endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” You, I am sure, sir, do not believe that this principle, had it suffered the least adulteration, would have been sufficiently vivifying to produce the great revolution that it did produce in our condition, &c.”
Can it be possible, that so intelligent a man as Mr. Birney really believes that the American Revolution was produced by the "great truth" which he refers to, or by any other abstract principle? Why, even the school histories of that great event would inform him, that Great Britain and her colonies no more went to war for a disagreement about the natural equality of mankind, than they did to settle the question of the Longitude. The principle cited is indeed announced in our Declaration of Independence, and, properly understood, deserves the name of a “great truth;" but that celebrated paper goes on to assign specific, practical causes for the war of Independence. It was the influence of these causes which incited our ancestors to commence and to continue the struggle which they so gloriously terminated. There have indeed been political revolutions abounding at every turn in announcements of abstractions; but the result has not said much for either the efficacy of those instruments, or the wisdom of using them. Such commotions have generally bad for their object, not the restoration of Government to its true principles, but the disorganization of society, the triumph of anarchy, and the aggrandizement of bad men, whose professions of zeal for human rights were loud in proportion to their own reckless audacity injustice.
If a careful compiler were to collect together the political and moral dogmas spread over the speeches and publications of the chief actors in the old French Revolution, he would find a sufficient number of really "great truths,” (mixed, indeed, with a multitude of absurdities,) to have conducted, on Mr. Birney's notion, fifty revolutions to an issue fortunate as that of our own. Yet, we all know through what paths of crime the
French Revolution proceeded, and in what bitter mockery of its “great truths" it closed. One of the "great truths” of that mournful era, as well as of the American Declaration of Independence, was the natural equality of mankind. It would be quite as fair to ascribe to a principle. wbich Mr. Birney deems so energetic, the failure of the French Revolution, as the success of our own. His new allies produce "great principles," if they produce nothing else, in behalf of the coloured people, as fast as the Abbe Sieyes wrote Constitutions; and with as little advantage to those for whom they are volunteered.
Mr. B. proposes to apply his theory of "great principles to the purpose of showing "that the principles on which Colonization is recommended to the nation, are unsound, imperfect and repugnant;" (Query: Repugnant to what?) and after engrafting on the theory a scion of metaphysics, avers that the following are mainly "the grounds upon which Colonization has asked for favor from the people of the United States," viz.
“1. That slavery, as it is, in our country, is justifiable, or that immediate emancipation is out of the question. 2. That the free coloured people are, of all classes in the community, the most annoying to us; the most hopeless, degraded, vicious and unhappy, and that, therefore—3. We ought in the exercise of a sound policy for ourselves and from sympathy with these people, to remove them to Africa, where tne causes of their degradation, vice and miserv will not follow them. 4. That we shall, in sending them to Liberia, by their instrumentality in civilizing and christianizing Africa, pay in some measure the debt we owe to that continent for the mighty trespass we have committed upon her."
“Here,” says our author, "we see a strange mixture of true principles, with others that are utterly false." It may be wished that he had produced his authority for ascribing this quadruple argument to the friends of Colonization; and that he had more precisely stated the first branch of it.When he declares that it has been contended on behalf of the Colonization Society "that slavery, as it is, in our country, is justifiable, or that immediate emancipation is out of the question," he leaves the reader tò doubt whether the identity of these two propositions was asserted by the unnamed advocate of the Society, or is only assumed by his commentator; and, on the supposition that only one of the propositions had been urged for the Society, which one that was. Such unexactness in a professed logician, is not a little remarkable. Until the doubts just mentioned shall have been solved, the defence of the Society on this head, cannot be understandingly made. Meanwhile, the wish may be expressed, that no authorized Agent of the American Colonization Society has so far transcended his own duty, and the constitutional design of that association, as to implicate its claims to public confidence with a defence of slavery. The Society proposes to provide a remedy for an existing state of things; and not to diverge into controversies about the justice or injustice belonging to that state of things.
The wąnt of precision characterizing the first, may be objected also to the last of Mr. Birney's specifications: “That we shall, in sending them" [i. e. the free coloured people, "to Liberia, by their instrumentality in civilizing and Christianizing Africa, pay in some measure the debt we owe to that continent for the mighty trespass we have committed against her.". The friends of the Colonizing scheme are here confounded with the au. thors of injuries to Africa, committed centuries ago. Now, the Colonization Society is the child of the present generation-a generation conspicuous for its zeal against the slave trade. This is, in truth, a "mighty trespass:" but one for which the present age is not a whit more responsible tha for the rebellion of the arch fiend against Heaven; though every individual of it is responsible, and heavily too, for neglecting the duty of rodeavouring to repair the wrongs committed by his ancestors against Af
rica. And the tendency of the colonizing scheme to this object, is precisely one of the great benefits on which its friends bave insisted. The confusion of the guilt of introducing slavery into the United States, with the misfortune of co-existing there with it, is an anachronism which the attentive reader of Mr. Birney's letter will find to be one of the staples of that composition. In justice to him it should, however, be remarked, that the discrimination on this subject which truth and fair reasoning require to be made, would have been fatal to the larger portion of his argument.
The ancient historians used to animate their writings by speeches put into the mouths of distinguished individuals. Mr. Birney has improved upon the models made familiar to him by his classical studies. He gives us a speech, generated by another speech to which the orator had been listening, and of which this fortunate circumstance has left the only trace. It seems that some slaveholder, after hearing one of our most ingenious and eloquent Colonization speeches,” uttered a soliloquy, which Mr. B. has taken the pains to report. If the report be accurate, the Colonization speech would seem to have been made up of arguments intended to determine the slaveholder against the plan proposed by the Society. It is at least difficult to imagine arguments better calculated to produce that effect: and it is certain that those which were used exactly so operated; for the soliloquy ends with the declaration, "I will let alone the whole matter." This was, surely, a strange course of reasoning for an advocate of Colonization; and the curiosity may be pardoned wbich inquires when, where, and by whom, a Colonization address was pronounced, that could possibly have occasioned the soliloquy of Mr. Birney's slaveholder. As Mr. B. was probably more familiar with his own speeches than with any other in favor of Colonization, one of these may have been his foundation for the monologue. Now, if Mr. B. ever made so extraordinary a speech, it needs only to be said that he made it on his own responsibility; and that he does wisely in replying to himself as soon as possible. But, from the reply might well have been spared the Freshman sophistry of the note to this part of his epistle.
The reader is next entertained with a new category of "Iss,” of the same family with that of their predecessors, and ending with an interrogative invocation to the American public to abandon the Colonization Society, "so injurious to us as a people, and to the cause of humanity and freedom throughout the world.” Then follow some reasons for the apparent permanency of slavery, anterior to the direct efforts made in the last two or three years to overthrow it;" the chief of which reasons is the justification of slavery, before imputed by the writer to the Colonization Society. To this he ascribes what he calls "the alleged melioration of slavery in many parts of the country.”
After the insinuated opinion that the "direct efforts" alluded to for overthrowing slavery, have tended to promote that purpose, the mind which can so far mistake the "signs of the times," and the connexion between causes and effects, may be excused for the logic which ascribes "the alleged melioration of slavery” to the doctrine that slavery is justifiable.
Mr. Birney assumes that "slavery, as a system, is, to all appearance, more confirmed among us than it was 15 or 18 years ago;" and charges the Colonization Society with having produced this state of things. Both the assumption and the imputation are gratuitous. Mr. B. cites precedents of slavery abolished in other countries, under circumstances so different from our own, as to render those precedents inapplicable. He talks of the continuance of slavery in the District of Columbia, where Congress holds exclusive jurisdiction; of the purchase and sale of slaves there, and of advera tisements in the newspapers on the subject of that traffica The forbeare
ance of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, may be supposed to result so directly from the considerations, which, when the Federal Constitution was formed, induced the recognition of slavery in the parts of the Confederacy where it then existed, that we are not prepared to infer from such forbearance, that "slavery, as a system, is," either really or “to all appearance, more confirmed among us than it was 15 or 18 years ago.” On the contrary, powerful evidence exists that the very reverse of this proposition is true. "Has Mr. Birney forgotten the recent decided proceedings in Maryland against slavery? or the discussions on that subject in the Legislature of Virginia? or the institution of a Society which he contributed to form in Kentucky, the place of his present residence, for lil:erating the suture offspring of slaves? or the numerous manumissions which, within the period indicated, have been made in the Siates just mentioned, and in other States? or the wakened attention to the moral and religious improvement of slaves which is signal in many of the States where they are held?
But, even were there any ground for the alleged confirmation of slavery as a system, the accuser has utterly failed in the effort to make the Colonization Society responsible for it. Slaves were bought and sold in the District of Columbia;* the wishes of buyers and sellers were made known through the newspapers, and the revolting practices which he enumerates existed long before the establishment of that Institution. He cannot, therefore, it may be presumed, (though we speak doubtingly) mean to charge the Society with producing that state of things; but such a charge would be quite as reasonable as the attempt to fix on the Society, the cause of its continuance. That the friends of Colonization have ever directly advocated the permanence of slavery, Mr. Birney, intrepid as he is in crimination, does not pretend. And his charge that they have indirectly done so, is sustained only by licentious assumptions, a 'straining to find the connexion between cause and effect,” of which he seems half-conscious; and a forced juxtaposition of "dissociable” circumstances. A sufficient answer to them, were any needed, would be his subsequent admission (which, by the way, is short of the truth), that the incidental operation of the Coionization scheme has been the manumission of eight or nine hundred slaves, for emigration to Africa; and numerous other emancipations, in cases "where the beneficiaries have not been sent out of the country.” He professes indeed to think that the Colonization principles deserve as little credit for the latter class of emancipations, as the infidel does for Christianizing a man, whom his arguments against religion had first led to reflect on its inportance. As the infidel reasoned in favor of infidelity, the illustration ought to have shown that the friends of Colonization reasoned in favor of perpetual slaver;; and by not showing this, it shows nothing. Now, there is no example of such an argument in support of Colonization, except the apocryphal case of the mysterious orator who set the slaveholder on soliloquizing. Though the question of slavery is one with which the Colonization Society has no direct or Constitutional concern, the opportunity which that society affords for safe manumission, has undoubtedly shaken slavery as a system; and will
* It is remarkable that Mr. Jefferson, of whom Mr. Birney, in a subsequent part of his letter, declares, that he “was but a little distance in the rear of the abolitionists of the preseut day,” and that “wherever, human liberty or national justice was restrained, he was the friend and advocate of all from whom it was withheld, be they white, or red, or black;" in a letter to Mr. John Holmes, dated April 20, 1820, holds the following language, in relation to what Mr. B. calls the “slave trade by sea and land, to our Southern ports,” viz: “Of one thing I am certain; that as the passage of slaves from one State to another, would not make a slave of a single human being who would not be so without it; so their diffusion over a greater surface would make them individually happier, and proportionally facilita'o the accomplishment of their emancipation, by dividing the burden on a greater numbox of co-adjutors,"[Jefferson's Works, Vol. 4, p. 324.
we trust, continue to do so, in despite of the counteracting induence exerted on the slaveholder by ill-judged and libellous denunciations of him from quarters where exclusive friendship to the coloured race is pretended.
Mr. Birney affects to show that "the appropriate tendency of the Colonization doctrines "is to excite a malignant and persecuting spirit against the free coloured people, and more vigorous enactments against the slave." Then comes another of his favourite "Ifs," and a resulting charge of "a shameful lack of magnanimity and manhood.” After some grandiloquous declamation, with occasional spangles from the tragedy of Hamlet, be produces what he oddly enough calls his "proof." This is to be found, he says, in "the laws of nearly all the slave states. Take for specimens a few. I have seen the son of a white woman sold into perpetual slavery by the Commonwealth of Virginia-attempting to regain by legal process in a distant State his long lost liberty.” A specimen indeed! Mr. Birney vught to have known that by the laws of Virginia, "the son of a wbite woman” is free, and of course cannot be legally sold as a slave. In the case cited, the evidence must have been that the mother of the party was a slave, and of course not a white woman. If the statement made to Mr. B. is true, the evidence must have been false. But it is a new principle of political ethics to denounce a law because in a particular case arising under it, false testimony was given.
The other "specimens" of laws affecting the coloured people, are presented in a shape which effectually shields from examination the argument of which they are the basis. * Nothing is said of the places and periods of their enactment; the doubt is permitted, whether the severest of them were passed in States friendly or inimical to the Colonization Society; and yet it is accused, in connexion with those laws, of malignity and persecution! The omission of details so material to the charge deprive it of any title to notice, except as a "specimen" of Anti-Colonization fairness. But wherever, and at whatever times, the obnoxious laws were respectively enacted, Mr. B. has failed, nay, he has scarcely pretended, to prove that the Society had any agency or influence in procuring, or could have successfully exerted any to prevent, their adoption; even conceding for the moment, that its interference would have been proper. He has equally failed to show that the existence of such laws offers no argument for the removal of the free coloured people from the sphere of their operation. Little can be said for either the wisdom or the benevolence of the objection, which censures the effort to do prompt though only partial good, because a more plenary benefit is believed to be not immediately attainable.
Besides the laws of the slaveholding states referred to by Mr.Birney, there is another circumstance incident to the condition of our coloured population, which deserved his attention. We mean their social proscription in the non-slaveholding States; which is so aggravated, that even in instances where their political rights are equal to those of the whites, these rights are reduced by conventional prejudices to an empty name. Intelligent persons among them living at the North, have admitted that when travelling at the South they have been treated with more consideration than at home. Whatever may be the reason, the fact is incontestable, that in the States in which the two races approach a political equality, the prejudice of colour is more deeply and vigilantly cherished by the whites, than in the States in which their superiority is recognised by law.
* Of one class of the laws complained of in Mr. Birney's letter, DR. MEADE, assistant Bishop of Virginia, in a letter to Mr. Elliott Cresson, says with striking truth, “the laws enacted in some Slave States against manumission, or requiring the manumitted to leave those States, sufficiently prove the existence of the feeling which lead to emancipation."-[Afriton Repository, Pol. 8, p. 87.]