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time to improve and meliorate the state of that class of the community for whom provision was to be made, should not be abandoned without a vigorous and a thorough effort to carry it into execution.
The formation of a Colonization Society was therefore proposed. Many were led the more readily to approve of an institution of this kind, from a knowledge that this subject occupies the attention of many worthy citizens in different States; but particularly from the consideration which had been bestowed upon it by the Legislature of a highly respectable sister State (Virginia.) As the following preamble and resolution were approved by the House of Delegates of that State, previous to the first meeting for the formation of the American Colonization Society, it will be proper to introduce them in this place, as they were afterwards amended by the Senate and adopted:
"Whereas the General Assembly of Virginia have repeatedly sought to obtain au asylum, beyond the limits of the United States, for such persous of color as had been, or might be, emancipated under the laws of this Commonwealth, but have hitherto found all their efforts frustrated, either by the disturbed state of other nations, or domestic causes equally unpropitious to
"They now avail themselves of a period when peace has healed the wounds of humanity, and the principal nations of Europe have concurred with the Government of the United States in abolishing the African slave trade, (a traffic which this Commonwealth, both before and since the Revolution, zealously sought to terminate) to renew this effort, and do therefore resolve, that the Executive be requested to correspond with the President of the United States for the purpose of obtaining a territory on the coast of Africa, or some other place, not within any of the States or territorial governments of the United States, to serve as an asylum for such persons of color as are now free, and may desire the same, and for those who may be hereafter emancipated within this Commonwealth; and that the Senators and Representatives of this State in the Congress of the United States be requested to exert their best efforts to aid the President of the United States in the attainment of the above object: Provided, That no contract or arrangement respecting such territory shall be obligatory on this Commonwealth until ratified by the Legislature."
Believing that the Legislature of Virginia had entered upon this subject with a spirit and a determination to prosecute the measure proposed, and desirous of producing a more general and simultaneous feeling and movement in aid of this object, by calling the attention of the General Government to the subject, a meeting for the purpose of forming a Colonization Society was appointed to be held in this city on the 21st of December, 1816. At the time proposed a very respectable number of gentlemen attended.
The following extracts relative to the proceedings of the meeting are from the National Intelligencer of December 24.
Mr. Henry Clay, of Kentucky, having been called to the chair, and Mr. Thomas Dougherty, of this District, having been appointed Secretary: Mr. Clay, on taking the chair, said, that he had hoped to have scen called to the place, for which he had the honor of being selected, a gentleman (Judge Washington) who, from his name, his exalted station, and his distinguished virtues, would have communicated an additional importance to the present meeting.
But as that gentleman was not present, Mr. C. regretted to learn from causes beyond his control, he would, with great pleasure, endeavor to discharge the duties of the Chair, He understood the object of the present meeting to be, to consider of the propriety and practicability of colonizing the free people of color in the United States, and of forming an association in relation to that object. That class of the mixt population of our country was peculiarly situated. They neither enjoyed the immunities of freemen, nor were they subject to the incapacities of slaves, but partook, in some degree, of the qualities of both. From their condition, and the unconquerable prejudices resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, both as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off. Various schemes of colonization had been thought of, and a part of our own continent, it was thought by some, might furnish a suitable establishment for them. But, for his part, Mr. Clay said he had a decided preference for some part of the coast of Africa. There ample provision might be made for the colony itself, and it might be rendered instrumental to the introduction, into that extensive quarter of the globe, of the arts, civilization, and Christianity. There was a peculiar, a moral fitness in restoring them to the land of their fathers. And if, instead of the evils and sufferings which we had been the innocent cause of inflicting upon the inhabitants of Africa, we can transmit to her the blessings of our arts, our civilization, and our religion, may we not hope that America will extinguish a great portion of that moral debt which she has contracted to that unfortunate continent? We should derive much encouragement in the prosecution of the object which had assembled us together by the success which had ate tended the colony of Sierra Leone. That establishment had commenced about 20 or 25 years ago, under the patronage of private individuals in Great Britain. The basis of the population of the colony consisted of the fugitive slaves of the Southern States, during the Revolutionary war, who had been first carried to Nova Scotia, and who, afterwards, about the year 1792, upon their own aplication, almost in mass, had been transferred to the Western coast of Africa. This colony, after struggling with the most unheardof difficulties-difficulties resulting from the ignorance, barbarity, and prejudices of the natives; from the climate; (which were, however, found to be not at all insurmountable;) from wars, African as well as European; and such as are incidental to all new settlements--had made a gradual and steady progress, until it has acquired a strength and stability which promises to crown the efforts of its founders with complete success. We have their experience before us; and can there be a nobler cause than that which, while it proposes to rid our own country of a useless and pernicious, if not a dangerous portion of its population, contemplates the spreading of the arts of civilized life, and the possible redemption from ignorance and barbarism of a benighted quarter of the globe!
It was proper and necessary distinctly to state, that he understood it constituted no part of the object of this meeting to touch or agitate, in the slightest degree, a delicate question connected with another portion of the colored population of our country. It was not proposed to deliberate on, or consider at all, any question of emancipation, or that was connected with the abolition of slavery. It was upon that condition alone, he was sure, that many gentlemen from the South and the West, whom he saw present, had attended, or could be expected to co-operate. It was upon that condition,
only, that he had himself attended. He would only further add, that he hoped, in their deliberations, they would be guided by that moderation, politeness, and deference for the opinion of each other, which were essential to any useful result. But when he looked around and saw the respectable assemblage, and recollected the humane and benevolent purpose which had produced it, he felt it unnecessary to insist farther on this topic..
Mr. Elias B. Caldwell, of this District, then rose. He said, he felt peculiar embarrassment in obtruding himself upon the notice of so large and respectable a meeting, in which he found some of the most distinguished characters in our country. I ask, said he, your indulgence in offering to the consideration of the meeting the resolutions which I hold in my hand, and to a few explanatory observations. The objects of the meeting had been feelingly and correctly stated by the honorable chairman. The subject seems to be divided into
1st, The expediency; and, 2dly, the practicability of the proposed plan. The expediency of colonizing the free people of color in the United States may be considered in reference to its influence on our civil institutions, on the morals and habits of the people, and on the future happiness of the free people of color. It has been a subject of unceasing regret, and anxious solicitude, among many of our best patriots and wisest statesmen, from the first establishment of our independence, that this class of people should remain a monument of reproach to those sacred principles of civil liberty, which constitute the foundation of all our constitutions. We say, in the Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal," and have certain "inalienable rights.' Yet it is considered impossible, consistently with the safety of the State, and it certainly is impossible, with the present feelings towards these people, that they can ever be placed upon this equality, or admitted to the enjoyment of these "inalienable rights," whilst they remain mixed with us. Some persons may declaim, and call it prejudice. No matter-prejudice is as powerful a motive, and will as certainly exclude them, as the soundest reason. Others may say they are free enough. If this is a matter of opinion, let them judge-if of reason, let it be decided by our repeated and solemn declarations, in all our public acts. This state of society unquestionably tends, in various ways, to injure the morals and destroy the habits of industry among our people. This will be acknowledged by every person who has paid any attention to the subject; and it seems to be so generally admitted that it would promote the happiness of the people, and the interest of the country, to provide a place where these people might be settled by themselves, that it is unnecessary to dwell on this branch of the subject.
As to the blacks, it is manifest that their interest and happiness would be promoted by collecting them together where they would enjoy equal rights and privileges with those around them. A state of degradation is necessarily a state of unhappiness: it debases the mind; it cramps the energies of the soul, and represses every vigorous effort towards moral or intellectual greatness. How can you expect from them any thing great or noble, without the motives to stimulate, or the rewards to crown great and noble achievements? It not only prevents their climbing the steep and rugged paths of fame, but it prevents the enjoyment of the true happiness of calm contentment, satisfied with enjoying but a part of what we possess-of using only a portion of what is in our power. Také away, however, the portion that is not used, and it immediately becomes the object of our fondest desires.
The more you endeavor to improve the condition of these people-the more you cultivate their minds, (unless by religious instruction) the more miserable you make them in their present state. You give them a higher relish for those privileges which they can never attain, and turn what we intend for a blessing into a curse. No; if they must remain in their present situation, keep them in the lowest state of degradation and ignorance. The nearer you bring them to the condition of brutes, the better chance do you give them of possessing their apathy. Surely, Americans ought to be the last people on earth to advocate such slavish doctrines, to cry peace and contentment to those who are deprived of the privileges of civil liberty. They who have so largely partaken of its blessings, who know so well how to estimate its value, ought to be among the foremost to extend it to others. I will consider the practicability of colonization under three heads: The territory, the expense, and the probability of obtaining their consent.
1. The Territory. Various places have been mentioned by different persons: a situation within our own terrritory would certainly possess some considerable advantages. It would be more immediately under the eye and control of our Government. But there are some real and some apprehended evils to encounter. Many apprehend that they might hereafter join the Indians, or the nations bordering on our frontier, in case of war, if they were placed so near us-that the colony would become the asylum of fugitives and runaway slaves-added to these difficulties, there are inveterate prejudices against such a plan, in so large a portion of the country, which it would be impossible to overcome or remove. Upon mature reflection, with all the light that has yet been shed upon the subject, I believe it will be found, that Africa will be liable to the fewest objections. A territory might, no doubt, be procured there; the climate is best adapted to their constitutions, and they could live cheaper. But, Mr. Chairman, I have a greater and nobler object in view, in desiring them to be placed in Africa. It is the belief that, through them, civilization and the Christian religion. would be introduced into that benighted quarter of the world. It is the hope of redeeming many millions of people from the lowest state of ignorance and superstition, and restoring them to the knowledge and worship of the true God. Great and powerful as are the other motives to this measure; (and I acknowledge them to be of sufficient magnitude to attract the attention and to call forth the united efforts of this nation) in my opinion, and you will find it the opinion of a large class of the community, all other motives are small and trifling compared with the hope of spreading among them the knowledge of the gospel. From the importance of this view of the subject, permit me to enlarge a little upon it. Whatever may be the difference of opinion among the different denominations of Christians, I believe they will all be found to unite in the belief that the scriptures predict a time, when the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be spread over every part of the world, shall be acknowledged by every nation, and perhaps shall influence every heart. The opinion is, perhaps, as general, that this glorious and happy day is near at hand. The great movements and mighty efforts in the moral and religious world, seem to indicate some great design of Providence on the eve of accomplishment. The unexampled and astonishing success attending the various and numerous plans which have been devised, and which are now in operation in different parts of the world, and the union and harmony with which Christians of different denominations unite in promoting these plans, clearly indicate a divine hand in their direction. Nay, sir, the
Subject on which we are now deliberating, has been brought to public view nearly at the same time in different parts of our country. In New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and perhaps other places, not known to me, the public attention seems to have been awakened, as from a slumber, to this subject. The belief that I have mentioned leads Christians to look with anxious solicitude and joyful hope to every movement which they believe to be instrumental in accomplishing the great designs of Pro vidence. They will receive your proposal with joy, and support it with zeal; and permit me to say, that it will be of no sinall consequence to gain the zealous support and co-operation of this portion of the community
On the subject of expense, I should hope there would not be much difference of opinion. All are interested, though some portions of the community are more immediately so than others. We should consider that what affects a part of our country, is interesting to the whole. Besides, it is a great national object, and ought to be supported by a national purse. And, as has been justly observed by the honorable gentleman in the chair, there ought to be national atonement for the wrongs and injuries which Africa has suffered. For, although the State Legislatures commenced early after our independence to put a stop to the slave trade, and the National Government interfered as soon as the Constitution would permit; yet, as a nation, we cannot rid ourselves entirely from the guilt and disgrace attending that iniquitous traffic, until we, as a nation, have made every reparation in our power. If, however, more funds are wanting than it is thought expedient to appropriate out of the public treasury, the liberality and the humanity of our citizens will not suffer it to fail for want of pecuniary aid. I should be sorry, however, to see our Government dividing any part of the honor and glory which cannot fail of attending the accomplishment of a work so great, so interesting, and which will tend so much to diffuse the blessings of civil liberty and promote the happiness of man.
Among the objections which have been made, I must confess that I am most surprised at one which seems to be prévalent, to wit: that these people will be unwilling to be colonized. What, sir! are they not men? Will they not be actuated by the same motives of interest and ambition, which influence other men? Or will they prefer remaining in a hopeless state of de gradation for themselves and their children, to the prospect of the full enjoyment of the civil rights and a state of equality? What brought our ancestors to these shores? They had no friendly hand to lead them; no powerful hu man arm to protect them. They left the land of their nativity, the sepulchres of their fathers, the comforts of civilized society, and all the endearments of friends and relatives, and early associations, to traverse the ocean; to clear the forests; to encounter all the hardships of a new settlement, and to brave the dangers of the tomahawk and scalping knife. How many were destroyed! Sometimes whole settlements cut off by disease and hunger; by the treachery and cruelty of the savages; yet were they not discouraged. What is it impels many Europeans daily to seek our shores, and to sell themselves for the prime of their life, to defray the expense of their passages? It is that ruling, imperious desire, planted in the breast of every manthe desire of liberty, of standing upon an equality with his fellow men. If we were to add to these motives, the offer of land, and to aid in the expense of emigration, and of first settling, they cannot be so blind to their own interest, so devoid of every noble and generous feeling, as to hesitate about accepting of the offer. It is not a matter of speculation and opinion only.