The African Repository
Lyman Beecher
Washington, D.C: American Colonization SocietyNovember 1834


  We copy from the Cincinnati Journal, the Rev. Dr. Beecher's eloquent speech at the late Colonization meeting in that city:—

  There can be no doubt that slavery, through the world, is destined to cease. Man was to be governed by reason, conscience, and the laws of heaven; and the signs of the times announce, that the day hastens, when every yoke shall be broken, and the oppressed go free. The illumination of science, the contribution of art, the diffusion of knowledge, the principles of liberty, the power of public sentiment, and the example of prosperous self-government are revolutionizing the world.

  In our own country, it is manifest that slavery must terminate quickly; and we trust that before the close of the present century, the reproach will be wiped away.

  Our free institutions, public sentiment, the climate, and the depreciation of slave labor in some states,—in others, the exhaustion of the soil, and in all, the growing knowledge, impatience, inutility and peril of the slave population—the increase of emigration, from considerations of conscience or fear or necessity, and the existing or fast approaching emancipation of the colored race in the islands, in Mexico, and in many of the non-slaveholding states, all declare the termination of the relations of master and slave to be near.

  But as all past great changes in society have been accomplished by providential instrumentality, It is time that the chosen instrumentality should begin to be developed; and it


is developed, in the extended and extending associations of the colonization and abolition societies, which, though like opposing clouds they seem to be rushing into collision, will, I doubt not, pour out their concentrated treasure in one broad stream of benevolence—like rivers, which ripple and chafe in their first conjunction, but soon run down their angry waves, and mingle their party-colored waters, as they roll onward toward the ocean.

  I rise, therefore, not as the exclusive partizan or opponent of either of these societies, but I say to them, as Joseph said to the sons of Jacob, "See that ye fall not out by the way, for ye are brethren."

  It is not to be expected that either of them, in the novitiate of their being, will be able to escape mistake and defy criticism. It does not lie within the compass of human faculties, to plan and execute with infallible foresight and wisdom. Society must continue in barbarism, if we reject improvement except on condition of consummated perfection. It seems also impossible to rouse the mass sufficiently for great undertakings, without a heat which ignites the most ardent temperament to explosion and irregular action, throwing back repellency on the main body. One of the greatest vexations which Luther and other reformers had to encounter, was the indiscreet zeal of this class of minds. The cause of liberty, in the early stages of our revolutionary struggle, was dishonored by patriot tory hunters, of tarring and feathering memory. In great revivals of religion, men of this temperament do often great good, and yet in such a manner, as to do sometimes more hurt than good. The cause of benevolence, then, in meliorating the condition of men, is not to be made accountable for those mistakes and indiscretions, which the greatest care cannot wholly avoid in novel experiments and great movements of the human mind. I will not, however, embalm and canonize mistakes and imprudence, because found always with great and benevolent undertakings. They stand out on the page of history, for warning, and not for daring and reckless imitation.

  It will be my object to show, that in meliorating the condition of the colored race, there is a work for the Colonization society to perform, and that, in its proper sphere, it is worthy of continued confidence and efficient support, and that for the emancipation and elevation of the colored race, there is also a work which more properly belongs to a society for the purposes of Abolition, which, judiciously conducted, may win the hearty co-operation of all patriots and Christians.

  No doubt the great providential work for which the Colonization Society is raised up, lies in Africa—compared with which all the good accomplished in this country is merely incidental, and as a drop of the bucket in the ocean. The wrongs of Africa are to be redressed; her darkness exchanged for light; her sighs and tears for songs of praise; her long captivity, for glorious and never ending liberty. What men meant for evil, God meant for good; and the accomplishment of his comprehensive plan will at last cause the wrath of man to praise him in the civilization and Christianization of Africa.

  By the hands of the colonists he is beginning to scatter the pirates which infest her coast, and extinguish the fires of her dark interior; and bind up her wounds, and bid her rise to the community of nations, whose God is the Lord.

  That the slave trade must cease is certain. Feeble as the moral sense of nations is; and slow as is their movement in a work of justice end mercy, the conscience of nations is beginning to act, and the arm of power to be extended, in earnest, to blot out this long standing shame on humanity.

  That the slave trade must cease soon, is manifest from the movements of Providence.—The power of steam is opening a highway to the heart and the extremities of Africa and commerce, the pioneer of Christianity, has commenced her march, and the angel has lifted the wing for flight, to preach, trumpet-tongued, the everlasting gospel.

  But the influence of the slave trade over the petty kings on the coast and in the interior is such as renders impossible the establishment of mere missionary stations. Fast as they could be planted, they would be instigated to cut them off with moral certainty.

  In these circumstances naval protection would not avail. The great expense, the extended coast, and the inconstant elements, render the exclusion of the slave pirate from access impossible. There must be land defences, and these must be colonial establishments stretched along the coast, conciliating the natives, and substituting a healthful commerce for traffic in the souls and bodies of men.

  At the time the Colonization Society was formed, a simple missionary establishment could not have been originated and sustained even in our own country. The missionary spirit was not sufficiently up, and denominational prejudices and sectional jealousies and irreligious aversions would have defeated the effort, but heaven saw what was needed, and raised up Mills, to pass with silent, miraculous perseverance through the southern states, asking questions collecting facts, sounding feeling, giving light, and preparing the affinities for a coalescene [sic], at the proper time. He explored Africa, and by the sacrifice of his life organized the band of her deliverers, and opened the way for her salvation. The Colonization Society is the offspring of his prayers and wisdom. It assumed what at that day none questioned—the impossibility of expatriation. That may prove to be true, or it may not; the subject is as yet unsettled: a matter of theory and argument, and not of experience; but to have preached emancipation then as plainly as it has since been urged in the legislatures of slave-holding states would have consigned the society to contempt and


imbecility. But, heaven-directed, it moved on, and called up attention, excited hope, awakened conscience, diffused information, and extended discussion, secured confidence, collected resources, proposed and executed plans of colonial establishment, until success itself outran the capacity of efficient management, and threw back the reaction of a temporary embarrassment, and produced the conviction that in the vast movement, a division of labor was indispensable, that a home department to superintend the work of emancipation and moral culture wee indispensable, while the civilization and christianization of Africa, by colonial establishments, should absorb the interest and effort of the Colonization Society. And He who seeth the end from the beginning, has called into being another institution, disposed, and if wisely directed, abundantly able to do the work. Both, we believe, to be the offspring of providential wisdom and benevolence, according to their respective views and preferences, to one or the other department of this glorious work.

  They are distinct departments. They are ample. They are of urgent necessity, and do not of necessity interfere with, but mutually aid one another. The demand of Africa upon us is imperious and must not be disregarded or postponed.

  And the condition of the free colored race, and of their brethren in bondage, and our own condition, all demand immediate and earnest heed. It is a subject not to be wept over, and not to be committed to providence without the offer of a willing and an associated instrumentality. In an appalling ratio, the slaves are increasing and the condition of the free, with such incapacities as they labor under, will become worse instead of better, as their numbers multiply.

  Humanity, benevolence, self-preservation, and the providence of God, demand urgently, a more direct and efficient movement to avert the evil. But great care is needed that in this division of labor, the children of benevolence should not fall out by the way. How mournful would be the sight, should the Christians of the United States array themselves in antagonist societies. It is a contention, which above all others should be let alone before it be meddled with; for should it enter the churches, it might agitate and rend them, burning up the gold and leaving only dross. It might separate very friends, now harmonious in the great enterprises of the day, and send discord and dismay through the sacramental host. The unhallowed controversy might break out in colleges, and theological seminaries, and raise up a generation of conflicting ministers to perpetuate strife through the coming generation.

  There would be great danger, that the collision would degenerate into party spirit, depreciating each other's success, and amplifying and rejoicing in each other's mistakes, and publishing to an exulting, unbelieving world, each other's failings; and bring a deep reproach, over which angels must weep, upon our common Christianity. No hindrance of the Colonization Society to the cause of Abolition could well become as great an evil, as the controversy likely to be introduced, by an effort to put it down. It would be an anomaly in the history of our benevolent institutions; a root of bitterness, unknown in our churches before; a baleful comet athwart our heavens, shaking pestilence and war from its fiery train. And why should the Colonization Society be rejected from the brotherhood of benevolent institutions? Both associations are agreed in most of the great principles which command the entire subject.

  That slavery is wrong, and a great national sin and national calamity, and that as soon as possible it is to be brought to an end, not however, by force, nor by national legislation, nor by fomenting insurrection, nor by the violation of the constitution and the dissolution of the union, but by information, and argument, and moral suasion—and by the spontaneous action of the slave-holding states. Nor are they of necessity antagonist societies in practice.

  It is not necessary that the Colonization Society should be or claim to be an adequate remedy for slavery. Her great and primary object, is the emancipation of Africa, while she anticipated as an incidental result, the emancipation of the colored race at home. But if time has disclosed what she could not foresee, she may bow submissively to the providential will of heaven.

  If in the urgency of her early argument, she has spoken in forms of unadvised depreciation of the free people of color, her most devoted sons have acknowledged the mistake, and are disposed to repair the injury. If she has insisted too peremptorily, that emancipation can never, in any circumstances, take place on the soil, she may quite consistently waive the discussion of that point; and leave heaven and time, the manner of the abolition of slavery. The Colonization Society does not denounce the slave-holder: because it would not facilitate, but hinder her work; but her silence does not prevent others from doing it, if it seems good in their sight. If the effect of colonization would be to increase the security of the slave property, the effect would be only temporary and limited, and more than balanced by the general and more permanent good, for the diffusion of light and argument, which she could circulate where the agents of abolition did not come.—Every instance of abolition for colonial purposes, attracts notice, and produces discussion, and carries a new appeal to the conscience of the slave-holder and new hope to the bosom of the slave. The Colonization Society need not insist that the entire colored population shall be emptied out upon Africa; nor is it necessary that the Abolition Society should insist that none should go thither. It is indispensable, to the emancipation of the sons of


Africa, that their mother country should sit in darkness, and drink blood amid the terrors of paganism and the slave trade, till all her exiled children are emancipated? Must her sons be taught to harden their hearts against her, till the entire reproach of slavery is wiped away? Is no compassion to be moved, prayer to be offered, no missionary spirit to burn, no sorrow of heart to be felt for kinsmen according to the flesh, in benighted Africa? Is there no obligation on Christians of the colored race, to volunteer for the introduction of Christianity to the land of their fathers? Where then is the necessity of a collision? The Colonization Society is not required to insist on its exclusive efficiency to put away slavery; and the Abolition Society is by no peculiarity of wisdom or foresight, authorized to insist that slavery shall terminate only in one way, and by their own single instrumentality.

  Great moral events can never be accomplished by single causes, and God has never set his seal to all parts of any complex human plan.

  Our brethren may be right that the slave states will, in some form, emancipate on the soil. But can they compel them to do it by a moral embargo upon the emancipated?—Can they do it by sealing hermetically the crater, while they augment the intensity of the fires within?

  And were it possible to burst even chain upon the soil, and force the colored race up the tide of prejudice, to an equality of intelligence and estimation, is it the most expeditious way to accomplish their elevation?

  How long would it take to bring up to a mediocrity of intelligence and secular prosperity the lowest classes of our white population? It is a work which turns the destiny of our nation, and in which we toil almost without perceptible progress. But there are greater impediments to the elevation of the free colored people: and what if it be prejudice, is there any thing more unreasonable and obstinate? and what if it be wicked, is it less obstinate because it is criminal?

  Besides, the colored race lack but half a million of our number, when our national existence commenced. And why should a nation so distinctly marked, be scattered among so many repellances among the whites?

  Ought they to be satisfied with an elevation so low and privileges so meagre and doubtful, compared with the blessings of a distinct nationality?

  The controversy rages, as if every thing turned on the question of African colonization, or emancipation and elevation among the whites.

  But by what authority do we limit the Almighty, and tie down the destiny of the colored people to a condition so low compared with the blessings of nationality? And is there not land enough on this western continent for a colony of colored people, and if the whites can be brought to nurture them in their bosom, would they refuse to them the blessings of an associated residence? We trust our colored brethren will take more comprehensive views in respect to their nation than those which would compel them to rise against the greatest possible obstacles, to a doubtful mediocrity, while the great body of the people continue literally servants, though nominally free!

  In our efforts to elevate the condition of the colored people, we owe it to ourselves and to them to avoid the consequences of a too precipitate approximation. They are not qualified to bear it with humility and discretion; and its injurious effects on them will but serve to confirm the prejudice against them, and against our benevolent efforts for their good.—It revolts also the public sentiment on this subject, which need not be outraged, and cannot, with impunity, be set at defiance. The prejudice of color is doubtless the result of condition and character. Had Africans been the oppressors, and Americans the slaves, white complexion and straight hair would hare been the badges of servitude and the occasions of prejudice; but since prejudice is the result of condition and character, it is invincible till the causes which created it are removed. If condition has created the chasm, affinities of intellectual and moral character can alone fill it and produce a reasonable approximation. In this way only has it died away in Europe and other places where color, coupled with talent and moral worth, is no obstruction to social and civil intercourse and all attempts to hasten approximation without these intervening qualifications, will but augment prejudices and repellances.

  It is alike obvious, and all attempts of emancipation should be conducted with kindness of manner, and courteousness of language. The evils of slavery are such as make it easy to awaken sympathy and rouse up indignation, while the means of their most felicitous removal are those of meekness, patience, and untiring effort.

  The importance of the cause affords no dispensation from the laws of prudence or justification for heaping hard words upon the head of the slave-owner. It is he who must emancipate the slave; and he, by our instrumentality, will do it only as we conciliate and convince him, instead of rousing up his pride or anger. If it is his duty to emancipate in the shortest practicable period, and if by our rashness we rouse his indignation and protract their bondage, we are partakers in his sin.

  In this connexion, I may say that we ought by no means to denounce one another as the abetters of slavery, because we do not accord in all respects as to the ways and the means of accomplishing emancipation.

  To denounce, therefore, all those who do not accord with us as the patrons of insurrec-


tion, on the one hand, and the abetters of slavery on the other, proceeds on the modest assumption that every jot and title of our judgment is infallibly right, and the smallest deviation, a justification of war.

  Such are the conclusions to which a long and careful observation has brought me, and I cannot but hope that they may commend themselves to the judicious of all classes, and avert the calamities of a ruthless controversy. But should this hope not be realized, and the unrelenting war of extermination be turned upon us, then, mournful as the alternative may be, we stand, with great kindness, (for many of our opponents are among our most esteemed friends,) but with unalterable decision, for the protection and the deliverance of Africa. Having doubled and quadrupled our zeal and prayers and contributions and efforts, we persevere till age chills the current of our warm blood and lays our head low in the dust. We feel assured that God has called us to build up the desolations of that dark continent, and we cannot believe that he has forbidden us to finish, what he called us to begin.

  The prayers which have been offered, the substance which has been given, the sacrifice of life which has been made, the territory which has been gained, the experience acquired, the confidence of the natives secured, the elements of civil and religious institutions brought together, are not recklessly to be thrown away. That it should be demanded might seem wonderful, but that it should be conceded, would be more wonderful still.

  God has called us to colonize Africa, as significantly as he called our fathers to colonize at Plymouth, or our foreign missionaries to sit down at Ceylon, or Owhyhee—and has he reversed the call? Has the trump of God warned us to desist? Have the elements made insurrection against us, or the stars in their courses fought against us, or such infatuation been poured out upon us as indicates his purpose to destroy? No voice from heaven has warned us from Africa; and no calamities which did not more powerfully obstruct the primitive Christians and the Puritan colonists, and no mistakes have happened to us but such as are common to men in conducting difficult and distant enterprises.

  Why then should we abandon Africa? Who would take up the work under better auspices? No visible association exists, nor plan tested by experience, while an effort is making to divert all thought and interest and effort from Africa. To be absorbed in the experiment of abolition, is planting the seeds of sanguine hope, and putting on the harness with a confidence that might better befit the puffing it off. Why then should we abandon the colonization of Africa? Is the resurrection of Africa, inconsistent with the cotemporaneous resurrection of her exiled sons? Must one sleep in the dust till the other arises? May not the trump of God call both from their graves at the same time?

  But were the interests of Africa in direct collision with those of abolition, is it a settled point that the cause of Africa must be relinquished. Here, two millions and a half of souls are in bondage; there, if I mistake not, more than a hundred millions. Here evangelical light shineth dimly upon all, and intensely upon few; while in Africa, one hundred millions sit in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death. Here, though no finger were lifted, the night is far spent and the day is at hand: a course of providential movements has commenced that co-operation may accelerate, but opposition cannot hinder.—But what causes of promised deliverance lie in the bosom of Africa, and to what external aid can she look, when colonial protection is withdrawn, and the slave-trader and the petty despot maintain the empire of despotism and traffic in desolation.

  Is this view of the subject, who would take, willingly, the responsibility of opposing the Colonization of Africa; and what friend of Africa will falter or desert her cause? Who that has ever given will not give more than ever: and who that has plead her cause, will not plead with renewed importunity? We oppose not the emancipation or elevation of the colored race. We desire it sooner than it can come, we fear, by the means relied on by many. We have only to say to our brethren, hinder us not. Commend your cause to public confidence in your own way, and we will do the same with ours, and let the people judge; but let there be no controversy between us. But if, after all, the abandonment of Colonization is demanded, as the only condition of peace, then we have made our election. If it be possible, as much as in us lieth, we will live peaceably, but we cannot abandon the one hundred millions of Africa. The bones of Mills would send groans from the bosom of the deep—his spirit sigh from heaven, deeper darkness settle down upon ill-fated Africa. The fires of war would rage on, and her captive bands drag their chains from the interior to the shore, to wail and die amid the horrors of the middle passage, or to drag out a miserable life amid stripes, servitude and blood. If I forget thee, O Africa, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not plead thy cause, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.