Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America

By Dwight Lowell Dumond | Go to book overview

Chapter 14
COLONIZATION

"Under the Federal Government which is now established, we have reason to believe that all slaves in the United States, will in time be emancipated, in a manner most consistent with their own happiness, and the true interest of their proprietors. Whether this will be effected by transporting them back to Africa; or by colonizing them in some part of our own territory, and extending to them our alliance and protection until they shall have acquired strength sufficient for their own defense; or by incorporation with the whites; or in some other way, remains to be determined. All these methods are attended with difficulties. The first would be cruel; the second dangerous; and the latter disagreeable and unnatural. Deep-rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinction which nature has made; besides many other circumstances which would tend to divide them into parties, and produce convulsions, are objections against retaining and incorporating the blacks with the citizens of the several states. But justice and humanity demand that these difficulties should be surmounted."1 So wrote Jedediah Morse in his American Geography in 1789.

Morse saw clearly the evil of slavery, but his approach to the problem of emancipation was that of Madison and Washington and Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Those men were perfectly willing to spread carnage over the face of the earth to establish their own claim to freedom, but lacked the courage to live by their assertions of the natural rights of men. Twenty years later emancipation had run its course; Virginia had become the breeding ground of slaves for the emerging cotton kingdom, and slavery was so deeply rooted in the Black Belt as to be indestructible. The Southern position was made crystal clear in the debates over prohibiting the foreign slave trade. It was to be perpetual slavery or civil war. Three powerful pillars supported the superstructure: slaves constituted the labor force; slaves gave the white people tremendous political power; and slaves were the living proof of racial superiority.

In no respect was this determination to strengthen and perpetuate the institution more clearly demonstrated than in the movement to colonize the free Negroes. Morse was correct when he said to transport the Negroes to Africa would be cruel; it was all of that-as cruel as death. Everyone who studies the documents on this subject should start with Benjamin Franklin. In the "Address to the Public from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage," Franklin said:

"The unhappy man, who has long been treated as a brute animal, too frequently sinks beneath the common standard of the human species. The galling chains that bind his body do also fetter his intellectual faculties, and impair the social affections of his heart. Accustomed to move like a mere machine, by the will of a master, reflection is suspended; he has not the power of choice; and reason and conscience have but little influence over his conduct, because he is chiefly governed

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