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rejection of such petitions, (except in some extraordinary cases,) has led, as might reasonably have been anticipated, to the open and notorious evasion of the law above referred to, many instances of which, might be enumerated by your memorialists. Now, the Colonization Society comes seasonably in aid of this abuse, by opening on the Coast of Africa, a safe and hospitable asylum, to which may be removed, not only such persons of colour as are born free, but such as may be made free by the act of their owners. The consequence will be, that the man who may desire, from whatever motive, to give freedom to his slaves, instead of casting them, as was formerly the case, unfriended and penniless upon the community, to augment the already too formidable. numbers of the free people of colour, will now take them to the Colony which has been planted by the Society, with the fullest confidence, that their condition, in every respect, will be greatly ameliorated, and with the certain assurance, that the country from which they go, will be benefitted by their absence. Already has a large number of the slaves who have been emancipated in Virginia, since the establishment of this Colony, been taken to it, either at the cost of their former owners, or, as it has frequently happened, at the cost of the Society. And when the advantages of Colonization in Africa shall be more fully developed, the Act of 1805 will cease to be evaded; the tables of the Legislature cease to be burdened with petitions from free people of colour, and manumission cease to be what it now is, an injury to the slave, and a curse to the country. Your memorialists have noticed this topic, not merely because they believe it calculated to recommend the Society, but because from a misconception of it, has arisen the objection before adverted to, namely, that under a plausible pretext, the Society was covertly seeking to impair the rights of private property.
Believing, therefore, that the American Colonization Society is a patriotic and benevolent institution; that all its plans are within the compass of reasonable human exertions; that its invaluable blessings are not confined to the white population of this country, but extend themselves to the free people of colour, and to Africa herself; your memorialists have ventured again to bring it to the notice of the Legislature. In the discharge of this pleasing duty, they are animated by the reflection, that the
plan of colonizing the free people of colour, in some place be yond the limits of the United States, originated in the Legislature of Virginia, more than twenty years ago, when several important resolutions were passed upon this subject. Though the efforts, then made for this purpose, proved abortive, and the subject seemed for some time to be forgotten, yet after the lapse of twelve years, it again forced itself by its intrinsic importance, upon the attention of the Legislature, and gave rise to the resolution of 1816; a resolution, which passed the House of Delegates with only seven dissenting voices, and the Senate with only one. To this resolution, passed with great unanimity, by both branches of the General Assembly, may be traced the origin of the American Colonization Society. To the Legislature, then, the friends of the Society, in Virginia, encouraged by the past, appeal with confidence, for aid to enable them successfully to prosecute its scheme, and to rear to full maturity, the Colony which has been planted under its auspices. Never, at any time since its formation, has the Society more needed assistance than at present, though it may be truly said, that never at any time have its friends been more numerous, or more active. Upwards of five hundred free people of colour, one-fifth at least of whom are residents of Virginia, have, during the past year, made application to the Society to take them to Liberia, and are now not only ready, but full of eagerness to depart.
Your memorialists do not presume to point out the mode in which legislative aid should be afforded, and far less the quantum of that aid. What they ask more particularly, is, that the whole subject of African Colonization be brought fully before the Legislature; that it be deliberately and minutely examined in all its bearings, and decided on according to its merits. "Acting above disguise, they seek investigation." The cause in which they have embarked, is one of no ordinary magnitude, Talents, and influence, and wealth, are enlisted in its behalf. Numerous and powerful Auxiliaries are urging it forward. Its course is onward. Its consequences to society must, therefore, be injurious or beneficial. In either case, it demands investigation, that, if injurious, the wisdom of the Legislature may devise some means to arrest its progress, and if beneficial, that the resources of the State may be applied to accelerate its march,
and to bring upon the country, the blessings which it promises to bestow. And, as in duty bound, your memorialists will ever pray, &c.
Signed in behalf of the Society,
JOHN B. TINSLEY, Secretary.
Report of the Committee, to whom were referred sundry memorials on the subject of Colonizing the Free People of Colour of Virginia.
The Committee, to whom were referred sundry memorials on the subject of colonizing, on the coast of Africa, the free people of colour of Virginia, having given to the subject, the attention justly due to its importance, and to its intimate connexion with what they believe to be the best interests of the State, beg leave to report, that the object of all the memorialists seems to be, to induce the General Assembly of Virginia, to avail itself of the offer of the American Colonization Society, to receive and protect within its settlement, on the Coast of Africa, any portion of the free coloured population of America. To this course, the memorialists think the Legislature of Virginia not only pledged by its previous acts, but invited also by the most powerful considerations of State policy and national justice; and they appeal with confidence to the wisdom and patriotism of those to whom the interests of the State are now confided, to commence at once the important work of providing the necessary means for the gradual removal of such portions of the coloured population of the State, as are already free, or may-hereafter be liberated.
Your committee are aware of the delicate nature of the subject, to which their attention has been thus directed; and while they deem it their imperious duty to investigate in the fullest manner its merits and its consequences, they hope to be able to present the result of their investigation, in a mode calculated neither to alarm the fears, nor to excite the prejudices of any impartial mind.
The establishment within the limits of any State, of a large
and growing community of individuals, essentially different from the great mass of its inhabitants, would, under any circumstances, be a matter of questionable expediency. But, if that community be distinguished by the peculiarity of its colour; be made up of slaves, or of their immediate descendants, and be diffused over every part of a slave-holding country, there is no longer room to doubt the baneful and dangerous character of the influence it must exert. The distinctive complexion by which it is marked, necessarily debars it from all familiar intercourse with the more favoured society that surrounds it, and of course denies to it all hope of either social or political elevation, by means of individual merit, however great, or individual exertions, however unremitted. The strongest incentives to industry, and moral as well as political rectitude, being thus withdrawn, it would argue a most extraordinary ignorance of the character of the human heart, to anticipate from those, in relation to whom virtue and intelligence, and patriotism, are stripped of their most powerful attractions, a course of conduct calculated either to exalt themselves, or to benefit the country in which they live. Reason, on the contrary, would point us to the very results which our own experience has so fully demonstrated. Ignorance, idleness, and profligacy, must be the inseparable companions, the unavoidable consequences of individual degradation; and they who are its unfortunate subjects, cannot fail to be a curse to the community with which they are connected, detracting at once from its general wealth, its moral character, and its political strength.
But, there is yet a more important and alarming view, in which this subject necessarily presents itself to the mind of every Virginian. A community of the character that has been described, with this additional peculiarity, that it differs from the class from which it has sprung, only in its exemption from the wholesome restraints of domestic authority, is found in the midst of numerous and rapidly increasing slave population; and while its partial freedom, trammelled as it is, by the necessary rigours of the law, is nevertheless sufficiently attractive, to be a source of uneasiness and dissatisfaction to those who have not attained to its questionable privileges, its exemption from the prompt and efficient inquisition appertaining to slavery, makes it an important
instrument in the corruption and seduction of those, who yet remain the property of their masters. The extent of this evil, may be fairly estimated, by a reference to our Statute book. The laws. intended either to prevent or to limit its effects, are of a character, which nothing, but the extreme necessity of the case, could ever justify, to a community of republicans; and the obligation to resort to them, is sufficient to command the serious attention of every enlightened patriot.
To considerations such as these, may be traced the policy, first resorted to by the Legislature of Virginia in 1805, of arresting the progress of emancipation, by requiring the speedy removal from the State, of all, to whom its privileges might be extended; and rigorous as this policy may seem to be; at war with the feelings of a very large and respectable portion of the community; and repressing by its mandates, some of the noblest principles of the human heart, it was nevertheless justified by the most powerful considerations of public necessity; it had become essential, towards preventing the rapid extension of an evil, that threatened in its progress, to destroy the peace and tranquillity of the State.
But, this unfortunately, was the utmost limit of its operation. The evil was already in existence, and possessed within itself, the means of its own extension, and accordingly, the free coloured population of Virginia, which in 1800, was only 24,000, had in 1820, reached the amount of 36,875. The only expedient left, was to prevent its farther increase, and if possible to ensure its decrease, by providing for its gradual removal; and accordingly the General Assembly, in its Session of 1816–'17, evidently with the intention of resorting to this expedient, renewed an effort it had made without success as early as 1800, to procure through the General Government, an asylum on the coast of Africa, for the reception of its coloured population. This object, for reasons which it is unnecessary to enumerate, was never accomplished.
But, a Society of intelligent and patriotic individuals, with scarcely any other resources than such as were supplied by private charity, and their own enterprising spirits, have, in the mean time, succeeded in exploring the most important parts of the Western Coast of Africa, in procuring a settlement of al