« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
carried out to the greatest extremes by violent partisans, viz., to lay hold of every circumstance apparently unfavorable to the cause of the other side, and give it its worst possible construction, they have industriously collected garbled extracts from occasional speeches, and from the periodicals of the society, setting forth its bearings upon the inte. rests of the southern planters, and have attempted by means of them to fasten upon the whole institution the charge of exerting an influence to retain the enslaved Africans in bondage, and to banish to a foreign land those who are already free. The friends of this cause, conscious of the utter falsehood of this accusation, and sensible on what slight evidence their motives have been impugned, have scarcely deemed it worth their while to make any defense. Still it has not been without some degree of wonder that they have observed what remarkable zeal some of the adversaries of their enterprise have exhibited in seeking its defeat-what grotesque caricatures they have drawn of it, and to what an extent they have ransacked the English vocabulary for abusive, thickly clustering epithets, with which to blacken it. The truth is, no greater slander could be promulgated than to denounce the Colonization Society as the supporter of the system of southern slavery. It was formed, and has all along continued its operations on the ground that it was wrong to drag the slaves from their native land, and that the principles of justice and benevolence demand their restoration to freedom.
This society was organized at the city of Washington in 1816, by a number of benevolent individuals, some of them slave holders, and some of them non-slave-holders and residents of the northern states. Dr. Finley, of Basking Ridge, New.Jersey, and Mr. Caldwell, of Washington, were, perhaps, the most active in its formation; men whose characters were above the imputation of any sinister design of connivance with the slave-holders, or cruelty to the blacks. There is every reason to believe that their object was to befriend the African race, and to do what they could for the final extinction of the system of slavery. The advocates of colonization from the first assumed the position that slavery is an immense evil, involving great injustice and cruelty to the enslaved, and detriment to the welfare and prosperity of those portions of the Union where it exists. Its periodicals and its orators have been accustomed to make the most pathetic appeal. respecting the horrors of the slave-trade, and the sufferings of the slaves Addresses which have been delivered in favor of the Colonization Society on the 4th of July, and on other occasions, at least throughout the northern states, have ever represented slavery as a system of cruel oppression, disgraceful to our nation, inconsistent with the spirit of its institutions, and hostile to its prosperity. And, to say the least, there have been numerous instances in the southern states where individuals have publicly and fearlessly uttered the same sentiments. But while colonizationists have put forth their efforts in behalf of the society on the ground that the system of slavery is wrong, and while they have manifested a deep sympathy for the slave, they have not preached up a cr usade against their brethren of the southern states. They have felt that many of the slave-holders have claims upon their sympathy as well as the slaves themselves. In exercising benevolence toward the one, they have sought to avoid doing injustice to the other. They have recognized the fact, that slavery was introduced into the southern states under the sanction and by the authority of British laws, while they were in a condition of colonial dependence upon the British crown, and that some of the colonies, especially Virginia and Carolina, repeatedly remonstrated in vain with the parent country against the barbarous traffick. They have taken into their account the fact, that many of the slave holders have found themselves placed in their present circumstances without any agency of their own, inheriting iheir slaves from their ancestors; and that in many cases, which can readily be adduced, it might be an act of positive inhumanity to cast them out immediately upon the world. They have learned neither from Scripture, nor from any other source, that real benevolence has no regard to consequences—that it is characteristic of its operations to seek to benefit one class of men by injuring others, and to disregard prudence, fitness, and propriety. They have suppored that true be. nevolence, such as was exemplified by the Saviour of the world and his apostles, seeks to do justice to all
, takes care to acquaint itself with all the circumstances of the case before it passes judgment; acts not blindly and rashly, but knowingly and considerately. They have thought it not inconsistent with Seripture or sound philosophy, in seeking to do justice to their fellow-men, to have some regard to expediency; which, notwithstanding that it is a word which has been so much proscribed and scouted by the advocates of immediate, uncon. ditional emancipation, means fitness, propriety, suitableness to an end. They have been accustomed to entertain more exalted ideas of benevolence than to suppose that the manner of its manisestations is to pour forth fierce railing and gross invective against whole classes of men, without qualification or discrimination. They have taken into con. sideration the fact, that the constitution of the United States recog. nizes the existence of slavery, and that each individual state is, in all respects, with the exception of so much power as has been delegated to this constitution, a sovereignty by itself, as independent of the other states as is any one of the nations of Europe ; and that, consequently, the inhabitants of the northern states have no right, as citizens of the American Union, to intermeddle with the internal regulations of the southern states; nay, that since they have agreed in the constitution to let the subject alone, they have no more authority to dictate to them what course they shall take relative to their slaves, than they have to dictate to Mexico or Peru what course they shall take relative to the aborigines of those countries. Furthermore, knowing that each individual state is, to such a degree, an independent sovereignty, they have understood that slavery in the southern states cannot be done away without the voluntary consent of the slave-holders them. selves, and that persuasion is the only mode by which citizens of the north can influence those of the south to give this consent. They have felt, too, that to load with maledictions is not the way to persuade men, but the way to excite prejudices, to steel the heart, and arouse all its evil passions. They have entertained some doubts con. cerning the propriety and ultimate utility of the mode of manufacturing public opinion, adopted by a certain class of modern reformers, and they have then thought that they have discovered in its application to the subject of slavery the torch of sedition and civil discord. They have reflected, that the American Union is a fabric, whose foundations have been laid in the blood of thousands of martyrs to the cause of freedom, that it was reared by the arduous toils of many wise and heroic patriots, whose expiring breath was spent in exhort. ing their posterity to defend it. They have not forgotten the farewell of Washington, “ Frown indignantly upon every attempt to alienate one portion of our country from the rest.” They have thought, also, that they could discover in those measures which would exclude from civil office, and from the pulpit, all who do not think, speak, and act in accordance with the opinions of a certain association, tyranny of the same nature (although expressing itself in a different way) with that which lords it over the slave; nay, in some respects, worse, since it would control reason and conscience; and they have felt too strong an opposition to slavery to submit to slavery themselves. They have also considered that zeal in the cause of the slave which makes use of the most opprobrious epithets which the English language can furnish in railing out against our fellow.citizens of the southern states, and the members of southern churches, which seeks to excommunicate all slave-holders from the church, and to place them under the proscription of a universal public odium, to be a zeal, to say the least, quite transcending the example and instructions of Christ and his apostles, They have felt disposed to question the authority of any man, or any association of men, to prescribe to their consciences what course they are to pursue relative to the subject of slavery, and have deemed that they have an undoubted right to adopt their own mode of operation, provided, always, that it interferes not with the principles of eternal rectitude with the rights of others, and the peace and good order of society. Such have been and are the views of at least many of the friends of the Colonization Society. And such being their views, while they yield to none in their abhorrence of slavery, and while they are so profoundly cautious of such a feeling, that they deem it not worth their while to notice any accusations which may be alleged against them, charging them with being the supporters or apologists of slavery, since they perceive not how they can at present pursue any measures contemplating the immediate emancipation of all the slaves at the south, without exciting ecclesiastical and civil discord, and endangering the existence of the Union ;-in a word, without involving in their consequences still greater evil than now exists, they prefer to pursue a more noiseless and a more peaceful course. Since they see not that they have it in their power to accomplish at once all they would, even the eradication of all slavery from the face of the earth, they will endeavor to do what they can consistently with the rights of others with peace and good order. And with the blessing of God they can do much for the African race, even supposing that colonization societies accomplished nothing more than to remove those free blacks who are willing to emigrate (for they seek the removal of none other) to a country where, relieved from the many disadvantages which attend them here, they may constitute by themselves independent and free states. In this country obstacles which may be called insurmountable exclude them from equal privileges with the whites. While they have the cares, burdens, and responsibilities of freedom, they have few of its real benefits. The existing state of society places them in rather an intermediate state between liberty and slavery. They are everywhere regarded as inferior, and com. pelled to feel their inferiority. The case, as is well known, is very rare where one of them emerges from the crowd. The greatest learn. ing, talents, and wealth, the most refined manners, and the most ardent piety, cannot in this country place a man of color on a level in the popular estimation with a white of equal advantages.
I do not say that the common prejudice against the African population is just. So far as it arises from mere distinction of color it is undoubtedly most unjust. But it is very evident that it does not arise altogether from this cause, nor from the fact that the African population of the southern states are slaves. It arises, in a great degree, from the actual, moral, and social condition of the free blacks, while, on the other hand, the debasement of their moral and social condition is owing, in a great measure, to their being cut off, by the existing state of society, from the influence of those motives which form the character of the whites. I speak of things as they are, and not as they ought to be. I do not say it is right that our colored po. pulation should labor under such disadvantages; nor do I consider them naturally a more depraved people than the whites. They have, as a race, many amiable traits of character. If the records of our penitentiaries show that the number of convicts from among the blacks preponderates greatly over that from among the whites in proportion to the amount of population, it is a result which might be expected to arise from their degraded condition. And now, granting that the existing prejudices against the blacks are unjust, how are they to be done away? Is it by warring against them? The man mistakes human nature who thinks to divest his neighbor of prejudice by censuring and reviling him. Like the traveler in the fable, who, when the wind and the sun tried on him their skill, in endeavoring to cause him to doff his cloak, drew that garment the closer around him the fiercer the wind blew, so is it with prejudice. It is increased, instead of being diminished, by reproaches and denunciation. The only way to remove all the existing prejudices against our African population is to remove all the causes of these prejudices; and how are all these causes to be removed except by admitting them to equal privileges with the whites in every respect, involving of course an amalgamation of the two races. It is perfectly idle to talk of admit. ting them to equal privileges with ourselves so long as they continue to be a distinct people ; for it is contrary to the testimony of all his. tory, as well as some of the most obvious principles of human nature, that two races of men should live together in an unmingled state on terms of perfect equality. Let men talk against prejudice as much as they please, it is sufficiently evident that unless they incorporate with the whites, they must continue to be overshadowed and borne down by their superior enterprise, knowledge, wealth, and power. Every truly benevolent man would wish to see them elevated as to their moral and intellectual condition, and would cheerfully labor for such an object; but multitudes who are their true friends would strongly deprecate such an intermixture. The God of nature has divided the African from the European race assigned them different quarters of the globe, and marked each with its distinct and prominent
peculiarities. What the God of nature hath so widely separated, let not man join together, is now, and will probably continue to be, the voice of the American people.
Since, therefore, the existence of the free blacks among us is attended, and is likely to continue to be attended, with so many disadvantages and disabilities, it is very evident that they can vastly improve their condition by emigrating to some country where they can exist as a nation by themselves—where they can constitute free and sovereign states, and enjoy the protection of a government and laws of their own. Such a country is Liberia ; and to all who have sufficient enterprise to make a change in their condition, evidently so advantageous, the Colonization Society proffers the means of effect. ing it. They have but to enter one of its vessels, and presently they are for ever removed from the land where so many of their country. men have been held in bondage, and from all those prejudices which weighed them down in the dust, and they are in the land of their fore. fathers, the citizens of a free commonwealth. Here they are almost swallowed up amid the numerous and rapidly augmenting European race, and find themselves bowed down and almost crushed beneath the weight of their superior power. There they can not only be removed from these oppressive evils, but they can even claim a superiority through the advantages of the arts of civilization over the surrounding heathen tribes. The prospect is, that here they must continue to exist like dwarfish plants from which some dense and gigantic forest excludes the sunbeams. There they can constitute a forest by them. selves, and extend their branches unchecked along the golden streams and through the radiant heavens of the clime of their forefathers. Did the Colonization Society, therefore, embrace no other object but to afford to the free blacks the means of emigration, it would be worthy of the liberal support of the benevolent, and would have so much of the character of a philanthropic institution as should place it beyond the reach of obloquy.
But it does not confine its exertions to the promotion of the welfare of the free blacks. It seeks, although in a way consistent with the concord of this nation, with the rights of the southern white popula. tion, and with the laws of the land, the emancipation of the slaves, and an emancipation not partial, but complete. It does, in fact, open a pathway of freedom for the bondsmen of the south, affording to the benevolent among the slave-holders opportunities and means for setting their slaves at liberty, and to the slaves themselves the means of making the best improvement of the act of manumission. It enables the northern and southern states to co-operate in the work of emancipation without strife or collision, giving to the latter oppor. tunities for liberating their slaves under the most favorable circumstances, and to the former opportunities for the operations of benevolence, in making provisions for their welfare on their release. It opens a wide field for the exertions of the philanthropic of every section of this Union. Instead of exciting animosity between the north and south, it is admirably calculated to draw closer the bonds of brotherhood between them. Most of the southern states, for the protection of their slave-holding interests, and perhaps as they have deemed in their own defense, have enacted laws forbidding the