PROFESSOR STOWE ON COLONIZATION.
Sketches of Professor Stowe's remarks at a meeting in behalf of the American Colonization Society, held in the Second Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, on the evening of June 9th, 1834.
MR. CHAIRMAN,—I am not accustomed to speak in public, except on subjects connected with my own profession, and nothing would have induced me to appear before this assembly on the present occasion, but the conviction that great injustice has been done to the friends of the American Colonization Society. I have for some time been acquainted with the Society, and have always supposed that its intentions were benevolent, and its influence beneficial; nor have I yet reason to change my opinion. Many are now zealously engaged in laboring to destroy public confidence in this institution, and with some of the men who are thus engaged, I am personally acquainted, and I know them to be men of intelligence, integrity and Christian feeling; but on this point it seems to me that they have sorely misjudged. To illustrate the nature of the hostility to which I refer, I will make a few extracts from recent publications. When speaking of a late document of the managers respecting the debt of the society, one writer expresses himself as follows:
"We need only extract from this document that part which relates directly to the debt, to show to every man who unites honesty with a moderate share of intelligence, that the society is still conducted, as it has been, with a total want of principle."—Anti-Slavery Reporter, vol. 1, p. 50.
Another writer has these remarks:
"The Superstructure of the Colonization Society rests upon the following pillars: 1. Persecution. 2. Falsehood. 3. Cowardice. 4. Infidelity. If I do not prove the Colonization Society to be a creature without heart, without brains, useless, unnatural, hypocritical, relentless, unjust, then nothing is capable of demonstration. W. L. GARRISON."
In the Anti-Slavery Reporter, vol. I. p. 49, I find the following:
"But if they could make Liberia a paradise, the plan would be liable to two objections. I. It would involve a despair of gaining a victory over prejudice here. 2. It would involve an immense waste of labor in doing that at a distance, which could be done more easily at home." Again on the same page:
"We regard the Colonization scheme, under whatever modifications, and by whomsoever advocated: as but the out-breaking of that spirit of slavery which rivets the chains of two millions of our brethren. In saying this, we do not as a matter of course, impeach the motives of all those who advocate it. Some there are who may be permitted to save their benevolence at the expense of their wisdom."
Notwithstanding this sweeping denunciation and its saving clause, I must still say that I am a friend to the Colonization Society; and yet no friend to slavery, and neither a knave nor a dupe; at least, I hope not.
I have endeavored to make myself acquainted with the objections which conscientious men feel against the Colonization Society; and if I understand them, they may all be comprised under the following:
1st. Its undertaking is chimerical:
2d. It is founded in prejudice.
3d. It encourages and tends to perpetuate slavery.
4th. It obstructs the elevation and improvement of the colored people in this country.
I am certain that these objections do not lie against any scheme of Colonization which I am interested to defend.
The principles on which I advocate colonization are the following:
1. I regard it as a necessary means of immediate relief from the miseries of slavery, where nothing else can afford relief:
I will illustrate this principle by an example. In the year 1776 the Friends in the United States declared slavery to be inconsistent
with the principles of christianity; and prohibited it among members of their body. Many of this denomination at that time
held slaves in states where the education of the blacks and their emancipation upon the soil were forbidden by law. The Friends
of the yearly meeting of North Carolina, including a part of Tennessee and Virginia, amounting to seven or eight thousand
in number, petitioned the Legislature of North Carolina for permission to emancipate their slaves. It was refused. They continued
to press the Legislature with petition after petition for forty years, and with no better success. They at length, without law, emancipated their slaves upon the soil, and of those emancipated
slaves more than one hundred were taken up and sold into perpetual and hopeless bondage, under the laws of the state. Emancipation
on the soil was plainly impossible in the existing state of public feeling. They contrived to put their slaves out of their
hands that they might no longer bold them as private property, by transferring them to the trustees of their society, by whom
they were nominally held as public property. But this course exposed them to vexatious and expensive law suits, and the society
was sued for the recovery of more than forty slaves held in this manner. As the only possible remedy left, they have for ten
years past expended more than $20,000, in procuring asylums for one thousand of their slaves in the free states, as
Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, in Hayti, whither they have sent 119, and in Liberia.—At length the free states were shut against them. They applied to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, but in vain. No place seemed open but Canada, and that is too cold for blacks born in North Carolina. About two years since, they embarked one hundred of their liberated slaves for Pennsylvania. They were refused a landing in the state. They went over to New Jersey. The same refusal met them there. They were then left to float up and down the Delaware river without a spot of dry land to set their feet upon, till the Colonization Society took them up and gave them a resting place in Liberia.
They have now five hundred slaves left, whom they are anxious to liberate; and what shall they do? Get the laws of the state altered? They labored after that for forty years, and more than one whole generation of black men died in bondage while their masters were striving to effectuate immediate emancipation. IMMEDIATE EMANCIPATION they found to be so slow a process that they were obliged to resort to COLONIZATION, in order that something might be done immediately. And in such instances, what possible mode of immediate relief is there except colonization? Shall they resist the laws of the state?—This would be contrary to the principles of Quakerism: and on this point at least, the unlawfulness of aggressive resistance even to legalized oppression, the wrongfulness of destroying human life for the attainment of any political purpose—on this point I must conceive that Quakerism is christianity.
Does colonization, founded on this principle, encourage slavery, or obstruct the improvement of the negro race? Is it chimerical, or founded in prejudice? It may be said, indeed, that the oppressive laws are founded in prejudice, but is it prejudice that induces us to aid the oppressed in escaping from those laws? And even supposing it were so; should a man in distress reject the only means of relief, for an apprehension that he who proffers the relief, or some one else, with whom he is in some way connected, entertains a prejudice against him? To illustrate my reasoning by an analogous example. At present the Jews in Persia are exposed to the most cruel oppression, while the emperor of Russia indulges them with peculiar privileges. If now an association should be formed in Persia, to relieve the Jews from their sufferings, and aid them in emigrating to Russia, and some friends of the Jews should rise up and say: 'Do not go to Russia, it is mere prejudice that occasions your sufferings, and the same prejudice actuates the members of the emigration society; therefore stay here and be quiet;' would such a procedure be thought indicative of the wisdom of benevolence? If the opposers of emigration bad it in their power to change the spirit of the government, or if any good purpose could be effected by the Jews remaining in Persia, which could not be effected otherwise, then indeed there would be more reason to oppose their emigration; but I much fear that generation after generation of the oppressed Israelites would groan and wither and perish under their sufferings, while their disinterested friends were effecting an immediate change in their favor.
2. I approve of colonization, because I suppose it to be necessary as a preliminary step to emancipation.
People in slave-holding communities generally regard slavery as an evil, but an evil which has grown so interwoven with the texture of society, that disruption would be a greater calamity, than slavery itself. They are apt to think with themselves, 'either that WE or the SLAVES must be sacrificed. We are the superiors; it is, therefore, reasonable that the slaves should be kept in ignorance and subjection, in order to prevent a much greater evil.' With them, accordingly, slavery is a prohibited topic; they will enter into no argument, they will hear no reason on the subject, unless in connection with some plan by which their own safety can be secured, while the rights of the slave are restored. Colonization affords such a plan, and in connection with colonization the whole subject of slavery can be introduced and discussed, without awakening fears and exciting prejudices which preclude conviction. This is the great thing necessary to produce universal emancipation. On this point I will introduce the testimony of a gentleman familiar with this whole subject, and a zealous friend of emancipation. I refer to the Rev. Mr. Young, president of the college at Danville, Ky. and president also of the Emancipation Society in that state. In a letter to a gentleman in this city, he observes: 'I speak that which I know, when I say that the Colonization Society has done immense service to the cause of emancipation in our state.' (Ken.) 'There is not an intelligent man in the State, but will bear me out in this declaration, that we are much further advanced on the road to emancipation, than we could have been, if the Colonization Society had never existed.'
The Colonization Society has already produced the emancipation of not far from three thousand slaves, and the education and consequent elevation of hundreds. By this means the negro character is vindicated, and the deep and damning wrong of slavery illustrated; for it is my firm conviction, that it is a sort of half persuasion that the negro was made for slavery, and is fit for nothing else, is the great thing that makes men of principle quiet in the possession of slaves. Let them see that the negroes are really me, and they cannot bring their consciences to grind into the earth and brutify by slavery the intelligent souls and the immortal spirits of their fellow men.
In advocating colonization on this principle, is there any thing chimerical, or prejudiced, or encouraging to slavery, or adverse to the improvement of the colored race?
3. I am in favor of colonization, because I suppose it to be right, and agreeable to God's
design, that the different races of men should continue to be distinct, and each reside in the climate best adapted to their physical and intellectual developement.
In all animals the physical organization is adapted to the climate and modes of life appropriate to each; and with a great change of these, either the physical organization changes, or the race degenerates, and finally becomes extinct. All men are descended from the same common stock; and all differences among them are the results of the cause above-mentioned. These differences are no greater than changes which have been known to take place in other animals, extensively migratory, such as the dog, the sheep, &c.—Blumenback selects the swine as affording instances of variety nearly as great as that which exists in the human species. In Normandy this animal is almost perfectly white, and the stiff bristles are exchanged for a warm coat of nearly the softness of hair. In the year 1519, the first swine were carried by the Spaniards to the Island of Cuba; and now the swine of that Island, though all descended of the common species, are of twice the usual size, and with a solid instead of divided hoof. There are differences equally great in the hones of this animal, as the cranium, legs, &c.; as found in different climates and different modes of life.
Man resists changes of this kind more effectually than any other animal; still they have an influence upon him. A man of English descent, of second or third generation, in a tropical climate, unless his physical structure has been in some degree changed, has not the capacities and energies of an Englishman of the temperate regions. The woolly hair and dark skin are evidently adapted to warm climates; and those are the situations for the physical and intellectual developement of the negro race. Where shall we find the most favorable exhibitions of the negro character? In the cold regions of the north? or in Egypt and Ethiopia? in Carthage and Morocco? in the West Indies and Brazil?
They need not go to Africa, to find a place fitted for their residence, unless they choose to do so; there are places enough on this continent, and within the limits of the United States, should it be found expedient and for their advantage that they should remain here. The Colonization Society advocates no coercive removal; and I am for having the rights of the black man fully recognized on this soil, and then leaving it to his own having choice, whether to emigrate or not.
Should the two races ever become entirely equal, and should there remain no accidental associations of superiority or degradation connected with the external physical differences, I have not a doubt that they would harmoniously and entirely withdraw from each other on the principle of elective affinity. A desire to tyranize over inferiors, or to associate with superiors, may hold the two races together while this unnatural distinction exists; but let it be removed, and without prejudice or hatred, each will have a simple preference for its own kind.
These are the principles on which I defend colonization; and if the American Colonization Society, as such, acts on principles in any way contrary to these, let me see the evidence of the fact, and I will no longer be its friend; but while it has such principles and such purposes in view, nothing shall induce me to join in the crusade against it.
True, it has nothing to do with the emancipation of slaves, and it ought not to have.—This would but encumber and impede its operations. Let there be other associations to promote the great and good work of emancipation; but let not the Colonization Society deviate from its specific, definite and good purpose of helping those colored people to Africa, who wish to go there. It is essential to success and usefulness, that every institution pursue its own peculiar, specific object, without intermeddling with others. Why should theological seminaries make it a prominent object of pursuit, to prevent the explosion of steamboat boilers? This is undoubtedly a good object, but not exactly appropriate to theological institutions.
Having, spoken thus far in behalf of colonization, I must be permitted to add, that I have sometimes heard things said by colonization men, and seen things published in colonization documents, which I by no means approve, and which do not accord with the sentiments of those colonizationists with whom I sympathize. A few words on these points and I will close.
1. I do not advocate colonization, because I suppose the prejudice against the colored people in this country to be either justifiable or invincible.
"God hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth;" and when Bishop Meade said that the colored people were created in the image of God, in some respects, I doubt not but he meant they are the image of God, in as many respects as the white people are. The prejudice which exists in this country against the negro race has no good foundation; neither nature, nor religion, nor humanity sanction it. There is nothing in the physical or intellectual nature of the negro, that can be offensive to the man unperverted by early and wicked associations.
History gives full testimony that this prejudice against the negro color and features has no foundation in nature. The ancient
Egyptians and Ethiopians were clearly of the black race. Herodotus affirms that the Colchians must have been descended from
the Egyptians, "because," says he, "they have black skins and frizzled hair;" and Buckhardt affirms that the Ethiopians are
distinguishable from the negroes of the interior of Africa, not by the color of hair, but by the superior beauty of their
forms, and the greater softness
of their skins. (Herodotus, b. ii. c. 505. Modern Traveler, c. xxvi. p, 255.) Did Herodotus feel any repugnance to these ancient nations on account of their color? No, he celebrates the Egyptians as the greatest of men, and the civilizers of the world, and twice mentions the Ethiopians as the largest and the most beautiful of men. (B. iii. c. 20, 114.) Homer bears a similar testimony respecting the Ethiopians, and makes them the favorites of the gods. (Obyss. b. i. 1, 22, f. Iliad. b. i. 1, 423, f.) In the minds of these noble old Greeks, the black skin and woolly hair, instead of being associated with the meanness and misery of slavery, were associated with that which is noble in civilization, and respectable in learning, and delightful in the arts, and splendid in military achievements. The descendant of Ham, though he has been for ages a servant of servants to his brethren, was the first to light the lamp of science to the world, and rear those stupendous works of art, the remains of which, after so many centuries, astonish even those who have been accustomed to all that Greek and Roman and modern art can achieve. The negro is not, in any respect, inferior to the white man, and in appropriate circumstances, he might again rise to the rank which he anciently held. Notwithstanding the iron bondage which has oppressed him in modern times, and paralyzed his energies, the occasional superiority of individuals shows that the race has not lost its place among the human species. The talents and attainments of Lislet, of Arno; of Derham, of New-Orleans; of Touissaint and Christophe were enough to extort the admiration of the most prejudiced.
Men always hate and despise those whom they oppress, and thus attempt to cheat and silence conscience. It is because the negro has been oppressed, that he is hated and despised. The Jews were for ages the objects of bitter oppression in Europe, and were then hated and despised; while their distinctive features and peculiar modes of life marked them out for insult and abuse. It is but little more than fifty years, since a rich Jew in Germany contributed largely to the rebuilding of a village that had been destroyed by fire, and having occasion to pass that way two years after, he was forbidden to enter the village, because the inhabitants would not have their soil polluted by the step of an Israelite. I am not informed whether the village was called CANTERBURY, but I am sure that it deserves as high a note in the trumpet of fame. During the wars of Bonaparte, the Jews became rich, and in some instances got possession of the lands and mansions of the nobility. The populace were enraged to see the hated Jews thus prosperous; and in the year 1820 they rose at Meningen, at Wurtsburg on the Rhine, at Hamburg, and Copenhagen, and murdered many of them in cold blood, and the utmost efforts of 'the magistrates and the military scarcely saved them from a general massacre. This prejudice against Jews seems quite unaccountable to us; but it has exactly the same foundation with our prejudice against negroes. It is founded in oppression and wickedness. The prejudice against the negro arises from oppression and wickedness, it is itself wickedness, and therefore it is neither justifiable nor invincible. I will never admit an argument which rests on the perpetuity of human wickedness, I will not believe that there is an evil in the human heart, which the gospel cannot cure.
But this prejudice, unjust and wicked as it is, will not be subdued at once; nor will the negro find immediate emancipation from the oppression of public sentiment. I am not sure that it will require any less time and effort and expense to subdue this prejudice and bring up the race to their proper standing in the face of it, than it would to furnish a distant asylum for them all, and transport and provide for them there. I am thankful that this prejudice is not universal and unbroken. By the constitutions of twelve of the U. States, Maine, New-Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New-York, (if they are freeholders,) New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, N. Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, black men are allowed to vote and are eligible to office. In a city of New-England I have known a negro to be elected to a city office for several years in succession, by the suffrages of the citizens; I have known three black men, Russwurm, of Bowdoin College, Mitchell of Dartmouth, and Jones of Amherst, to study without insult, and graduate with honor in three different New England colleges; and I once myself introduced a black man (a Mr. Butler, of Canada) to the students of Dartmouth college, whom he wished to address; and they listened to him with the utmost decorum and attention and sympathy. Would to heaven that such incidents were more frequent.
2. I do not advocate colonization because I suppose it to be an adequate remedy for slavery, much less the only remedy.
The pecuniary interests and the prejudices of the white man are not the only things to be regarded; but the natural and inalienable rights, the long-continued and cruel wrongs of the black man, also claim our attention and our sympathy. Many of them choose to remain in this country, and they are needed, especially in the Southern parts of our Union.
I suppose that emancipation is safe, and that the negroes can easily be made capable of taking care of themselves. Many of
them certainly do maintain themselves, bring profit to their masters, and pay from six hundred to one thousand dollars for
the purchase of their freedom; and if they can do this, they can surely maintain themselves and families when their freedom
is given them. In every instance, I believe, where emancipation has taken place, it has been found safe, and mutually a benefit
to the master and slave. Emancipation is safe; but who have the right or the power to emancipate? Certainly, they who
have slaves, and they only; but as the whole country has participated in the guilt (and gains, if any there are) of slavery, it seems to me no more than right that the whole country should share the expenses of emancipation.
Slavery is unmixed evil; it is all abomination; there is no good connected with it, either to the master or the slave; and the more society advances, the more intolerable does slavery become. This evil must come to an end, or we as a nation must perish; and the only question is, how can the business be brought to a close with the least injury and the greatest amount of good, to all concerned?
In respect to the colony at Liberia, we hear very contradictory statements. Evils undoubtedly exist, such as attend all new settlements, and some perhaps which are peculiar; but I have not yet seen evidence that the colonists have suffered half the calamities which attended the early settlement of New-England, of Virginia, or of this western country. I suppose that all the evils which exist are susceptible of remedy, and that the Society is able and willing to apply the remedy; otherwise, I would say, let Liberia be abandoned, and a better place provided, and better plans pursued. The good of the black man, and not merely the pecuniary interests of the white man, is the object aimed at by the Colonization Society; and I will never knowingly raise my hand or utter a word in favor of any scheme of colonization in which this great object is lost sight of, or holds only a subordinate place.
The good, the permanent and highest good of both classes of the community, the white and the black, is to be secured; and to secure the good of both, should be the object of all our plans and efforts.—Cincinnati Journal.