The Historical Spectator.

The Real Motives of the American Colonization Society

In the early 1800s, opposition to slavery in the North was con­stantly growing, and the fear of aboli­tionism mixed with the fear of slave revolt, perhaps encouraged by free black citizens, to make Southern slave­holders more than a little worried. Could they reach some agree­ment with the opponents of slavery? To some it seemed as though an obvious solution offered itself: send the free blacks back to Africa. The American Coloni­zation Society embraced both slave­holders and some aboli­tionists in an effort whose most obvious result was the founding of Liberia. But not all aboli­tionists believed that removing free blacks was a practical or righteous answer to the question. C. Stuart, an aboli­tionist of the less amenable sort, finds the real moti­vation in the American Colonization Society: it soothes the conscience of the slave-owners with the minimum possible reform.

The broad facts of the case are these:

The whole population of the United States is about 13,000,000. Out of this upwards of 2,000,000 are held in a most degrading and brutal state of per­sonal slavery, under laws worse than even those of the wretched slave colonies of Great Britain.

Out of the whole, 330,000, though free, are in most cases only partially so; and are exposed to an ex­ceedingly malig­nant and destruc­tive perse­cution, merely because they have a skin dif­ferently colored from the remaining eleven and a half millions of their fellow subjects.

Both those two perse­cuted classes arc rapidly increasing. Their increase terrifies the slave party, and fills them with anxious musings of danger.

The glaring contra­diction of a free people being a slave-holding people; of eleven or twelve millions of men, calling them­selves the most free in the world keeping upwards of 2,000,000 of their unof­fending fellow sub­jects in the most abject and degrading slavery, affects many, and urges them to seek a remedy. The word of God stands out before others, and bids them blush and tremble at the guilt and danger of their country, while the smothered cry of the oppressed and unof­fending poor rises incessantly to God against her.

From this state of things it was that the American Coloni­zation Society arose; by this state of things it is that the American Coloni­zation Society subsists. It is agreeable to the slave-master, for it calms his fears. It offers a remedy to the man who mourns over the dishonor and inconsistency of his country; and to the man who fears God, it commends itself by pretending to do all that it can for the unoffending poor.

The views of its advo­cates are frankly expressed in its own consti­tution as above quoted, and in its own reports. I refer to them all, particularly to the three last, 13th, 14th, and 13th, and submit from them the following quotations:

13th Report, page 44:—“The present number of this unfortunate, degraded, and anomalous class of inhabitants cannot be much short of half a million, and the number is fast increasing. They are emphatically a mildew upon our fields, a scourge to our backs, and a stain upon our escutcheon. To remove them is mercy to ourselves, and justice (!!!) to them.” 15th Report, page 24:—“The race in question were known, as a class, to be destitute, depraved, the victims of all forms of social misery. The peculi­arity of their fate was, that this was not their condition lay accident or transi­ently, but inevitably and immutably, whilst they remained in their present place, by a law as infal­lible in its operation as any of a physical nature.” In same 15th Report, page 25:—“What is the free black to the slave? A standing, per­petual excite­ment to discontent.… The slave would have then little excite­ment to dis­content, but for the free black; he would have as little to habits of depredation, his next strongest tendency, but from the same source of de­teriora­tion!!!… In getting rid, then, of the free blacks, the slave will be saved from the chief occasions for suffering, and the owner from inflicting severity.”…

How far may the remedies thus proposed be fairly expected to remove the evils in question?…

1. What kind of a remedy will it be to the brutal enslavement of two millions, increasing at the rate of 50,000 annually, that annually a few hundreds (or thousands if it should ever be) have their slavery commuted into trans­porta­tion. The few who are benefited not being righted, but only suffering a lesser instead of a greater wrong; while the two millions who remain are still increasing in number and sinking in degradation.

2. What kind of a remedy is it to the dreadful perse­cution which the 3 or 4 or 500,000 free colored people are suffering in the United States, that a fragment of them are removed annually to a foreign land, with their own consent, while the multi­tude who remain are subjected to aggravated persecution?

3. How can the African slave trade be effectually prevented, while negro slavery, its only source, remains? Or what power can the Americans have in attempting to abolish the slave trade in Africa, excepting that of mere brute force, while they have a slave trade at home, more criminal than that of Africa, and almost as cruel?

4. How can the moral wretchedness of Africa be remedied by an influx of degraded and untutored minds? And what will the Africans think, when informed that these Americans, who are so busy about freedom on the African coast, are slave-masters, or encouragers of slave-masters at home?

5. How can the ruinous condition of the slave states be remedied by trans­porting almost the whole of their laboring strength to a distant country?

6. And what good will it be doing the slave-holder to give him peace in his sins? To make it as pleasant and as safe for him as you can, to continue to plunder and to oppress the unof­fending poor? Will that be loving him? Will his soul bless you for such love, when his whiter skin no more elates him with pride, and when he meets his slave, no longer a slave or a negro, but like himself, a deathless soul, to be judged, without respect of persons, by the impartial law of unalterable righteousness?

Prejudice Vincible, &c., 1833.