Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

65 LINCOLN'S COLONIZATION PROPOSAL IS ANTI-CHRISTIAN

Isaiah C. Wears

On August 14, 1862, President Lincoln met with five African American men from the District of Columbia to enlist their support for his plan for colonizing the black population of the United States in Central America and other countries. He told the five that racial differences between black and white made it impossible for them to live as equals and promised them governmental assistance if they would recruit colored families to settle in Central America. Complete separation of the races was the only solution, he said. "But for your race among us," he emphasized, "there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of slavery, and the colored race as a basis, the war could not have an existence. It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated."

Accounts of this interview were widely publicized in the Northern press and infuriated many African Americans. The Statistical Association of the Colored People of Philadelphia met on August 15, and in a speech, Isaiah C. Wears ( 1822-1900), association president, voiced black opposition to Lincoln's plan. The speech by Wears, a barber and Republican politician, was then sent to the committee of African Americans who had visited President Lincoln to assist them in framing their reply to the chief executive. "No previous time, in our humble judgment," the letter declared, "has ever presented itself for a committee of colored men by a bold, judicious, manly and righteous decision to make an impression on the enlightened and civilized mind of the world as in this instance." The correspondence was signed by Wears and William Still, corresponding secretary of the association. Both Wears and Still were prominent Philadelphia leaders, and both were active in the city's Vigilance Committee to aid fugitive slaves.

Wears's answer to President Lincoln's proposal is excerpted from the Christian Recorder ( Philadelphia), August 23, 1862.

TO BE ASKED, after so many years of oppression and wrong have been inflicted in a land and by a people who have been so largely enriched by the black man's toil, to pull up stakes in a civilized and Christian nation and to go to an uncivilized and barbarous nation, simply to gratify an unnatural wicked prejudice emanating from slavery, is unreasonable and anti- Christian in the extreme.

How unaccountably strange it seems, that wise men familiar with the

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