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REMARKS ON THE PRINCIPLES OF THE COLONIZATION SO
CIETY, By the Rev. R. R. GURLEY, Secretary of the Society; most of which were delivered in the Middle Dutch Church, in the City of New York, on the evening of April 23, 1834.
The question which I propose to discuss, is one of the greatest which ever has been, or can be, submitted to the consideration of the American People.
Ever since the deluge, Slavery has existed in large portions of the world; and for more than three centuries, been encouraged in Africa by the slave trade, prosecuted until recently, with all circumstances of crime and cruelty, by nearly, if not all, the civilized powers of the world.
Of those who have been consigned by this traffic to inexorable bondage, (ten or twelve millions at least,) nearly one-half, have been doomed to their miseries for no alleged crime, and by no law or tribunal of their own country.
Long before the Revolution, slaves were introduced into this country by the commerce of England, and subsequently their numbers greatly increased by the inhuman enterprise of the American Colonies. But up to the time when slavery was forced extensively upon our shores, by the Mother Country, the people of America, foreseeing the sad consequences to posterity, sought protection therefrom, by petitions and appeals, both to the Parliament and the Throne.
But the evil came extensively upon us; it grew with our growth, and strengthened with our strength, and became inwrought in the interests, habits and frame of society. It pervaded the whole social and political organization and constitution in many of the Colonies, and affected all the relations and operations of men.
The Constitution of the United States, adopted as the common bond o a National Government, formed by the people of the several States, States independent to the moment of its adoption, leaves slavery where it found it, except that by the Union it creates, peculiar facilities are afforded for the diffusion of correct sentiments on the subject, and in the government established, powers vested, adequate (ard at the request of those most in* terested, capable of being applied,) to remedy the evil. Of the two millions of colored persons in the United States, the great body are in slavery in the Southern and Southwestern States; the free people of colour amounting in all, to less than three hundred thousand.
The unfortunate condition of both classes, has long excited the benevo. lence of many minds, and what measures should be adopted to relieve their miseries and elevate their character, been a subject of deep reflection.That they have been too generally and criminally neglected, is unquestionable. That the free enjoy few of the benefits of freedom,—that the slaves are uneducated, degraded, and suffer from laws rigorous and oppressive, is clear.
But Africa, with her uncounted, countless (I had almost said,) population, ignorant, debased, enslaved, opens before us her vast domain, where cunning has imposed on credulity, and flattery betrayed the innocent, avarice fettered the brave, and power crushed the weak; where all faith has been violated, all mercy forgotten; where Ruin walks abroad, amid the bounties of nature, and Despair hides in dim eclipse her glories. Africa then claims redress for her wrongs, and the sighs of her afficted children come to us on every breeze. The whole African race, then, should be included within the circuit of our sympathies and charities.
The American Colonization Society had its origin in humane and beneyolent sentiments towards the colored 'race. The characters of its founders, place their motives beyond suspicion, in the judgment of candid and liberal minds. Many of them, removed by death, have left enduring memorials of their love to God and man. I hope to show that their principles were as pure as their intentions.
The object of the Society is, to colonize, with their own consent, in Af. rica, or elsewhere, the free people of colour of the United States, and to act for this object in co-operation with the General Government, or such of the States as may adopt regulations on the subject. Will any one say, that because the Society will co-operate with the National Government, or the States, to effect its exclusive object, colonizing the free people of colour with their consent, it may co-operate for an object directly the reverse, colonizing them without their consent? Yet those who make it their chief concern to destroy the reputation of the Society, represent its scheme as one for coercing away,-for expatriating our whole colored population. This is as reasonable, as true, (and no more so,) as to represent that those who judge it best for the people of colour to remain here, deny them the liberty of removal. If the maintenance of the opinion, that the voluntary separation of the colored and white races be desirable, is to force the colored race away, the maintenance of the opinion, that their continuance with us is desirable, is to force them to remain. If the Colonization Society believes such separation will promote the interests of all parties concerned, the cause of human improvement and freedom and happiness, it may as rightfully exert a moral influence to effect this object, as those who think their continued residence with us is desirable, may exert such infuence to effect their object. As to physical and legislative powers, they belong to no association of individuals disconnected from Government, and no such association can be held morally responsible for the opinions or acts of Government, any further than such opinions or acts can be shown to be the fruiis of its moral influence. How can a Society, bound by its first principles to colonize persons only with their own consent, tend to expel them against their will from the country.
But it is asked, did not the Colonization Society, after the insurrection in Southampton, Va., receive and transport to Liberia at their own request, free persons of colour, compelled to seek some refuge from the indignation kindled by the outrages there perpetrated, of horror and blood? Certainly. But did the Society arvuse the viridictive passions, urge on the persecutions, excite the spirit of wrath and violence, before which these unfortunate men fled in dismay? The relentless foes of the Institution have not dared to allege or insinuate such a charge against it.
Suppose these unhappy men had fled to this city, and requested their Anti-Slavery friends to afford them an asylum, and the means of subsistence, and they had replied, we cannot receive you—the people of Virginia had no right to force you away; we will not in any way countenance their measures against you. Return and stand upon your natural and inalienable rights. Would not every unperverted mind have felt the inhumanity of such conduct? Yet the Colonization Society is guilty only of showing kindness to these people, at a time when they looked elsewhere for relief in vain.
My respected friend, Dr. Cox, (whose originality of genius, and nobleness of heart, no one more highly appreciates than myself,) has taken his position against the Society, in consequence of evidence first exhibited to him in England, which he has found ample reason since, to believe correct, “that the colored people of this country as a whole, and almost to a man, are utterly opposed to its system.” This objection alone he regards as conclusive and invincible. Were the fact assumed, admitted, which it is not, the argument would be this only; a majority of the people of colour are opposed to colonization: therefore, such as approve it, should not be assisted to emigrate. I see not the force of the argument. Why should the liberty of the free colored man who chooses to settle in Africa, or my liberty to assist him, be abridged by the opinion of a majority, or of all his brethren? If the fact that some men of colour wish to remain in this country, be a reason why all should remain, is not the fact that some wish to emigrate a reason why all should emigrate? But I deny the fact assumed. More than three thousand colored persons have voluntarily emigrated to Liberia, and at nearly every period since the existence of the Society, have applicants for a passage been more than it has had funds to aid.I know that in this city and the Northern States, the people of colour, generally, are hostile to the scheme. But the opinions of these, opinions mostly and mainly formed under the influence of those, who, to speak with the utmost charity, have mistakenly represented the Society as unfriendly to the best interests of their race, as the ally and defender of slavery, cannot be regarded as the unbiassed judgment of our colored population, and if they were, those who think such judgment erroneous, have the same right with those who think otherwise, to express their views and exert their influence in the case.
But the opposition to the Society arises less from what it does, than from that which it does not. The establishment of Christian colonies of free colored men, disposed to emigrate, in Africa, might be forgiven, did the Society exert that influence, or rather did it not stand in the way of that influence which is deemed the appropriate and only remedy for slavery. It is said that the Society obstructs emancipation. A pamphlet has been published in England, entitled "The Extinction of the American Colonization Society, the first step towards the abolition of slavery." The question, then, of the moral influence of the Society on slavery is one most important, the discussion of which cannot, should not be avoided. True, the establishment of Christian States in Africa is an object of magnitude, and motive enough to animate all Christian hearts, yet if to effect it, be to prevent, or even greatly retard the voluntary and peaceful abolition of siavery, it may be secured at too great a price.
The Colonization Society exerts a powerful moral influence, favorable to the abolition of slavery, because it attempts to exert no other influence. The people of the South recognize no right political or moral, in others
than themselves, to regulate, modify, or abolish slavery, and they justly deem any efforts to coerce them to abolish it, as a violation both of the spirit and letter of the Constitution. The Colonization Society by abstaining from all measures, which, in the judgment of the South, endanger the public safety, gains the confidence of the people, and secures from them a candid consideration of the truth, in regard to the interests and claims of our colored population.'
We must respect the rights and judgment, even if erroneous, of those in power, would we plead successfully for those who suffer from it. “We must plead for the oppressed, not to them.”
By uniting on a common ground, and for a common object of humanity to the people of colour, the wise and good of every State of the Union, the Society is producing that state of public sentiment, from which alone can result the peaceful abolition of slavery. It is by bringing the benevolent of the land to meet on some common principle, and for an unexceptionable purpose, relating to the people of colour, that a friendly interchange of thoughts and opinions is secured, that discussion, calm and dispassionate in regard to their interests and prospects is produced, and thus all elements set in motion for the formation of sober and correct opinions. To prevent men from forming wrong opinions is often important towards leading thein to adopt right ones. Having taken sides on any question, they are seldom converted by controversy. We grant to our own reason what we will not yield to the dogmas of another. In the liberty of our will, only, do we obey the truth. Truth is best heard in the silence of the passions.
The operations of the Society are awakening in the Southern mind sympathies, associations, trains of thought, which are the germs of great and noble actions. They appeal eloquently to all the generosity, to all the justice of our nature. Every notice of Liberia, every ship that sails thither, every slave manumitted to go there, pleads the cause of human freedom. Examples of emancipation, have an effect more powerful, than all the fulminating denunciations of the wrathful; and like example, the influence of the Society takes effect, because it leaves no apology for resistance in the conscience or judgment of its enemies. In warring with it, they must war against themselves.
The measures of the Society tend to elevate most surely and rapidly a community of men of colour, who may exhibit to the whole world the ca. pabilities of the colored race for high moral and social improvement, and for self-government,
No reflecting man, I think, can believe, that in these respects, as a community, they will surely and rapidly rise here. I say nothing of the causes which prevent it. In every way would I gladly aid their improvement, But I must give up my reason, to expect, that to any considerable extent, they will be rapidly improved. Almost every thing is against them. But in Liberia, every thing is adapted to unfetter their minds, to awaken their enterprise, kindle their hopes, stimulate industry, rouse them to action. As a people they need to be thrown, chiefly, upon their own resources; they want motives for intellectual energy, and noble conduct. What cir. cumstances can do for human character, we read in the history of our country. What they had done, Mr. Burke saw and admired before our Revo. lution, when in allusion to the commercial enterprise of the New England colonies he exclaimed, “What in the world is equal to it? While you are looking for these hardy adventurers in the arctic circle and among the tumbs ling mountains of ice, they are at the antipodes, and engaged under the frozen serpent of the South. While some draw the line and strike the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others are pursuing their gigantic game along the coast of Brazil. No sea but what is vexed with their fisheries, no clis mate which is not witness to their toils. Falkland Island, that seemed too remote an object for the grasp of national ambition, is but a stage and a resting-place in the progress of their victorious industry." Human nature is of all countries and ages, and what has elevated it here may ennoble it in Africa. If in vanquishing opposition, in surmounting obstacles, in subduing the hardness and taming the wildness of unintelligent nature, making her to pay tribute to civilization, and her wilderness to become fruitful fields, our minds have gained power, will the people of colour gain nothing from a like discipline. It is yet to be seen whether their experience will prove an anomaly in the history of men. And to elevate the man of colour in one part of the world is to do a general benefit to his race.
That the Colonization Society exerts a powerful moral influence, favorable to emancipation, is, as far as I know, the unanimous opinion of the friends of the colored people at the South. Their opinion is, also, that the present Anti-Slavery measures at the North retard emancipation. Is no value to be attached to their judgment in the case?
The friends and foes of the Society profess equally to adopt, as their rule of conduct, the precepts of Christ. In regard to Slavery, as in regard to all other great moral and political evils, I agree generally with Dr. Cox, that the remedy is the "genuine influence of the Gospel of Christ.” But I deny that this can prove instantly, and wholly effectual. For some of the physical evils of the world, even such as have originated in moral causes, there is no immediate remedy. It is remarked by Coleridge, that "an evil which has come on gradually, and in the growth of which, all men have, more or less, conspired, cannot be removed otherwise than gradually, and by the joint efforts of all.” It is impossible, instantly, to render the ignorant enlightened, the poor independent, and the lorg degraded and oppressed qualified for all the immunities and privileges of self-government. The general prevalence of Christianity would not render this possible. But experience forbids the hope, that Christianity will at once pervade all hearts, and genuine Christians often find their duties more or less modified by the circumstances of the society in which they are placed, by the characters and actions of those who constitute that society.
The perfect law of liberty, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," is designed to be the law of order in the world, comprehending, regulating, controling all the duties of man to man. It refers each individual to hís own bosom, for a standard by which he may judge of his neighbour's claims on him; his own self-regard is to be the measure of his charity.Rightly interpreted, this law makes it no duty for a man, to treat all other men alike, to treat them as they may desire to be treated, or to deem one man's interest as valuable as that of many. He is bound to treat every other man as his conscience decides, he might reasonably expect that other to treat him, in an exchange of circumstances. He must estimate other men's interests in society, as he would reasonably expect his own to be estimated, were he in their condition. Governments are ordained of God for the good of men. But those who administer them, must regard the general good as paramount to that of individuals. If, as is remarked by South, "in the government of the visible world, the Supreme Wisdom iia self, submits to be the author of the better; not of the best, but of the best possible, in the existing relations; much more must all human legislators give way to many evils, rather than encourage the discontent that would lead to worse remedies.” “Salus populi suprema lex,” is founded in the law of nature, and of Christ. The governing MIND, in the body politic, is morally bound to take care for the safety and life of the body. If evils exist, if the system be diseased, this mind must judge of the particular remedies, the time and mode of their application, and that the general body