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NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
OCTOBER, 184 6.
ART. I. — A History of Colonization on the Western Coast
of Africa. By ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER, D. D., Professor in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, N. J. Philadelphia : William S. Martien. 1846. Svo. pp. 603.
The enterprise, the history of which Dr. Alexander has presented so much at large, originated in a desire to benefit the colored race both in this country and in Africa, the slave as well as the free. It was meant to serve the free, by providing a home where they should not be oppressed by those associations of contempt and injury which hang round them here and prevent their rising; and to help the slave, by showing that his condition can be improved by emancipation, which is now doubted by many, and not without some reason. It was believed that there were those who held slaves from a feeling of necessity, and because they considered themselves responsible for their welfare, — retaining them in their service not from selfish motives, but from the sincere impression, that to dismiss them, under ordinary circumstances, would do them more harm than good. Such persons undoubtedly there are, quite as many as would be found, in the same relation, in any other part of the world. Notwithstanding all that is said, to the disadvantage of our country, of the glory which England has gained by her West Indian emancipation, no one believes that there would bave been more freedom at this moment in Jamaica than in Louisiana, had it depended there, as it does here, upon the VOL. LXIII. — No. 133.
masters. Those persons must be largely blessed with faith and charity who can look over the social condition of the British empire, and believe that the English are more alert than all the rest of the world in surrendering evils and abuses which they are interested to maintain. Here and elsewhere, there are some who, from reasons of humanity, desire to escape from the unnatural relation of master to slaves ; others who deplore its effects on character, both in themselves and their children ; others yet who live in dread of the consequences and changes which it may possibly bring. These all, acting from various and perhaps blended motives, are willing to surrender their charge, if they can be sure that they are removing them from a bad condition to a better. The colonization system is intended to answer this natural and reasonable demand.
But there is an impression in many minds that the plan originated in selfishness, and that the whole operation of the system is selfish from first to last. The best way to determine this point is to consider the character of those with whom it began ; unless there is something which they could have expected to gain by it, there can be no ground for the suspicion. The well known divine, Dr. Hopkins, of Newport, first suggested it. Though, in his day, the relation of master and slave was not questioned as it is now, and it was not so generally admitted that man can buy no right to man, it was evident that the bondman was at the mercy of his lord, that they who have unlimited power will sometimes abuse it, and that, even if the slave should be humanely treated, it is only physical comforts which such kindness can supply, since, in order to reconcile him to his condition, his mind must be kept in darkness, thus closing the only window through which heaven's light can reach his soul. Dr. Hopkins thought, too, that the colored race might be made the means to carry light and civilization to their African brethren, who have always been so difficult to reach. Surely, no one can ascribe his zealous philanthropy to any mercenary designs. Some years after, Dr. Thornton, a native of Virginia, brought forward a similar plan, and published an address to the free people of color in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, inviting them to go with him to Africa to establish themselves in the land of their fathers. He failed for want of means; but what eartbly end could he have
hehe first meetine subject ita to explore moved as any reil self
gained from it but labor and sorrow, had it succeeded to his utmost hope ? Dr. Finley, of New Jersey, called the first meeting wbich ever was attended in this country to consider the subject; and he, Dr. Burgess, and Samuel J. Mills, who went forth to explore, and found his grave in a foreign land, were as far removed as any men can be from the suspicion of using philanthropy to veil selfinterest and ambition. And it may be said in general, that those who have taken up this object have struggled against wind and tide, having no loud voices of encouragement to cheer them, and yet persevering against contempt and resistance, when it was impossible to account for their selfdevotion, except by admitting that it came from the heart.
But it is said, that there are those who sustain this enterprise, not from any desire to serve the slave or the African, but simply with the view of making slavery safer and more permanent by removing the free colored people from our shores. Undoubtedly it was free men whom they expected to remove. It was not understood that any should be compelled to go ; if they went at all, it must be by an act of freedom on their own part, by using the power of choice. Even had it been otherwise, had the slave been compelled to go, we cannot see the extreme cruelty of the operation ; for we have the impression that slavery is a bitter state, and that whoever takes a man out of it to a land where he can breathe the air of free moral existence renders him a service, though perhaps against his will. When we see a man in the fire or the water, we may be forgiven if we do not ceremoniously ask his consent to draw him out; and if he should prefer remaining in either element, it should not be accounted inhumanity on our part, if we consulted his welfare more than his will. It may be, that some have exerted their power as masters in a last act by compelling their slaves to go; but if there have been such cases, we do not know them, and we apprehend that they are very few. That the system has been advocated by some Southern statesmen on the ground that it makes slavery safer and surer, we readily admit; but certain it is, that the men who hold extreme opinions on the subject, believing slavery intended as a permanent blessing, are among the most jealous enemies of colonization, because they feel that the whole matter is brought under review and made to agitate the public mind in this form, when it could not be introduced in any other. If, therefore, colonization could be put down, they think that it would close the only avenue through which light can reach the minds of the masters, and prevent all discussion of the right of man to man.
There is no doubt that this is a correct impression, and in all these cases the question is not, with what views is an enterprise supported, but what is its effect likely to be. Every extended movement enlists a variety of interests and feelings ; some, who are perfectly indifferent to it in one point of view, may be warmly interested when they see it in another. If one of its advocates presents it to one set of men as favorable to their interests and views, and to another set, having different interests and opinions, as favorable to theirs, it is an evident fraud and falsehood on his part; there is no excuse for his double-dealing. And so, if the appeals and reports of any association hold different language according to the point of the compass to which they are addressed, offering colonization to the South as a means to perpetuate slavery, and to the North as an instrument to undermine it, no man in his senses will undertake to excuse or defend them. The case is different, when the plan is simply presented, and each one left to judge for himself what purpose it will answer, and why it should have claims to his friendly regard. The reasons which have weight with them may be different ; they may sometimes be directly opposed to each other; one advocate, who takes one view of it, may present that view, and another, at his side, or in a distant region, may hold forth an opposite doctrine, without any moral inconsistency or prevarication. In every thing else, there is the same contradiction. Some friends of temperance are in favor of restricting laws, while others, equally sincere, believe that these create more intemperance than they suppress. Some opposers of capital punishment deny the right to take life, while others maintain the right, but would not exercise it, because it gives a murderer the aspect of a victim. Thus it is that men travel in different paths to the same result ; and it is no reproach to a cause, if it should be sustained from views and inducements various and even contradictory, since it has been so with every enterprise since the world began.
But while the scheme of colonization presents itself in various aspects to different classes of its supporters, and we are not aware that its advocates lie open to any charge of perverting or suppressing the truth, though it is not seen alike by all, it is well known that a great prejudice has been exerted against it, and that, too, in a part of the country where it might have expected the warmest welcome. It was not so in the beginning; the friends of humanity and freedom in New England at first were deeply interested in it ; it seemed to open precisely the way that was wanted, in which philanthropy could touch the subject of slavery without throwing off constitutional restraints, or calling up the fierce resistance of the masters. For a time, the only objection made to it was the poverty of its resources, and the vastness of the work which it proposed to do. This objection was met, by showing that all beginnings must be small; it is only by slowly and heavily piling one stone on another, that foundations are ever laid ; that it was far better to make thorough, even if lingering, preparation for the work, than to have a multitude thrown into the new colony at once, without a mass to receive them in which their ignorance and barbarism could be melted down. Discouraging as such beginnings are, it is evident, in looking back on every such enterprise, that their hopelessness at first has been their greatest blessing, calling out patient hope, inspiring successive as well as strong endeavours, and giving the new elements time to ripen into consistency and hardness, to bear the weight that shall afterwards come.
As to the work which it proposed to accomplish, it was not supposed that mere efforts of private liberality would remove the vast slave population of the country, increasing every year, as it does, by tens of thousands. If the States interested would consent to the surrender, and the nation put its energy to the endeavour, no doubt it could be done ; but no one ever imagined that a voluntary association, however extended in its numbers, or liberal in its contributions, could any more relieve this continent from its burden than they could dip the ocean dry. Still, there was something which was entirely within their power; they could make an experiment, to show, that, under favorable circumstances, the emancipated slave could throw off his degradation, expand to the full proportion of intellectual manhood, form an energetic and practical character, and learn to respect him