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land of their fathers, with the cruel prospect before them of perpetual exile and hopeless servitude! To the mind of sensibility it is consoling to reflect, that we restore to Africa, as intelligent and free, the posterity of her sons, whom we received as barbarous and enslaved! It is consoling to reflect, that we send them not 'empty away,' but carrying the fruits of light and knowledge, and capable of scattering their precious seeds upon a soil which has lain neglected and buried, for centuries, in the grossest ignorance and night.
Such is the first step which the Young Men's Colonization Society of Pennsylvania have taken in this sphere of benevolent exertion. The origin of the body is but of yesterday; but its active existence has been the means of conferring important benefits upon the parent Institution. It has infused into its veins the inspiriting virtue of youthful blood, with its impulsive energy. As a branch of the chief establishment at Washington, it will act upon similar views, and aim at similar results.
As an association formed in Pennsylvania, guiding and directing the destinies of a colony bearing its honoured name, it will seek the establishment of those cardinal doctrines of government which rendered Penn illustrious, and his province happy. It will imitate the colonial policy of a Founder, conceded to be far-sighted and virtuous. It will infix as corner-stones in the Pennsylvan fabric the principles which he inculcated and practised; the principles of toleration and temperance-of unbroken faith and universal peace. It will aim, in unison with the parent Society, at those practical blessings to the American negro and the native African, which it was the great design of that institution to promote and subserve.
The occasion, therefore, is opportune to recall the reasons which suggested the formation of the American Colonization Society, and to take a glance at her leading principles and purposes, as they are understood and acted upon in Pennsylvania.
The distinguished honour of proposing a Society, as it was afterwards modelled, for the colonization of the free blacks
upon the coast of Africa, belongs to Dr. Finley, of New Jersey. It dates its existence, as an organized company, in the beginning of the year 1817, upwards of thirty years after the formation of the Abolition Society of Pennsylvania, the parent of perhaps all the similar institutions in this country. Let us survey the wide field of enterprise which the condition and prospects of the degraded and wretched sons of Africa presented, at that period, to the mind of enlightened benevolence.
The introduction of negro slavery into this country belongs to its provincial history. It must go in reduction of that debt which we owe to our ancestors—it is an incumbrance connected with our English inheritance. Thirteen years after the settlement on the James river, a ship load of Africans, from the coast of Guinea, was sold to the planters. Multitudes, in Virginia and the other colonies, were soon after added. New supplies were in a course of constant arrival. At length the influx becoming onerous, and the injustice of the traffic apparent, further importation was prohibited by law. Slaves being thus admitted, and being cherished in the southern latitudes on account of their alleged necessity and great number, the revolution swept Ly without effecting their emancipation. Legal provision has since been made for the gradual removal of slavery in the states north of the Potomac, but on the south it continues to exist without a sensible change.
In other countries servitude has no doubt been in practice, more oppressive, being less restrained by benignant legislalation and the moral tone of society. The laws in all the slave-holding states, protect the slave in the enjoyment of those qualified rights which are compatible with its recognition, as a legal system. But with these assuasives the system prevails, and is attended with too many revolting appendages ever to have the approbation of disinterested and dispassionate men. It is opposed to the genius of our institutions, and at war with that principle of human equality which forms at once our political profession and our national boast. It sinks its unhappy victim to the dust, and prevents
him from growing to that moral and intellectual stature befitting the dignity of a sentient being.
'Ημισυ, γαρ τ' αρετής αποίνυνται ευρύοπα Ζεύς,
'Avépos, evt' cöv u iv xarà déacov mu op 'erg'ouv.-0d. 17. 323. Its effects upon the master who lives under it, and upon the country which tolerates it, are only less baleful and ruinous. Look for a moment at the condition of our southern country, where, as well in its moral as its physical aspects, can be seen the sweeping desolation of its blight. The vice of indolence, and those other vices which march in the train of inaction, are but too perceptible on every hand. With all the advantages of a favourable position for commerce, a genial climate and luxuriant soil, we find deserted wharves, grass grown streets, and exhausted fallows. Instead of the hardy race which should fix upon solid ground the deep foundations of our republican edifice, we find them luxurious and effeminate, unequal to those vigorous exertions which a new system in a new country requires.* Those who cannot maintain the style of gentlemen, seek subsistence in other states where labour is honourable and its recompense less contingent. Thus sapped of its strength, its enterprising spirits banished by an inexorable necessity-its magnificent fields neglected and uncultivated—its inhabitants emasculate by indulgence,
“ The country blooms a garden and a grave.” To change so lamentable a condition of things to restore man to his civil dignity, if not his native worth—to wrest
* Montesquieu attempts to lessen our estimate of the evils of servitude, in despotic countries, by alleging that the condition of a slave is hardly more burdensome than that of a subject. Though his ideas of the African race and of negro slavery, are alike abhorrent and unphilosophical, (See Sp. L. 15 B. 5 chap.) he is nevertheless aware of the inconsistency of slavery with political institutions which aim at, or establish equality. In relation to such governments, he says, “ slavery is contrary to the spirit of the constitution; it only contributes to give a power and luxury to the citizens which they ought not to have.” (Sp. L. 15 B. 1 Chap.) Of its effects upon the master, he says, “ he contracts all manner of bad habits with his slaves, he accustoms himself in. sensibly to the want of all moral virtues, he grows fierce, hasty, severe, volup. tuous and cruel.”-Sp. L. 15 B. 1. Chap.
from destruction those virtues which droop if they be not carefully cherished—were among the original objects of the Abolition Society of Pennsylvania. This institution was composed of men of the first distinction and merit; men who, fired by that liberty which the revolution established, were willing to render that liberty universal. They laboured for the general cause of the African, both bond and free. Though legal emancipation was the primary object of their convention, their comprehensive and benevolent plan embraced in connexion with it, the abolition of the slave trade, and the assistance and elevation of the African
Schools were formed under competent teachers, and these were watched with the most anxious and unremitted assiduity. The operations of the Society, as a corporate body, were commenced in the year 1789, but it has, in fact, been in energetic agency, since about the year 1785. Nearly half a century has witnessed the devoted zeal of this philanthropic institution. Is it premature or invidious to inquire by what fruits its efforts have been distinguished ? After the lapse of so many years, after the application of intense and persevering labour, if success has neither been realized nor loomed at a distance, is it unfair or unreasonable to doubt the final result of the experiment?
The abolition of our system of slavery in Pennsylvania was in 1780, a period of nearly five years before the organization of the Abolition Society. Is it a derogation from its claim to unquestioned benevolence to deny to it, as a body, any instrumentality in the enactment of the abolition law ? The association was not in being at the period of its passage. The merit of the measure is to be ascribed to the profound sense entertained by the legislature, of the injustice and evils of slavery, incited as they were by Benezet* and other distinguished philanthropists.
The statute abolished hereditary servitude, and provided
* In the Life of Benezet, page 92, I find the following account of his instrumentality in the passage of the act. During the sitting of the legislature in 1780, a session memorable for the enaction of a law which commenced the
for the freedom of the future generation of existing slaves, but those who were then in existence received no benefit from its provisions.* In 1790, which was ten years after the passage of the act, and five after the formation of the Society, there were nearly four thousand slaves in the state. The number has been gradually diminishing, but at the census of 1830, there were in Pennsylvania, sixty-seven slaves, the most of whom will irremediably continue till death, the absolute property of their masters.t This remnant of legal bondage has remained unimpaired and unaffected by the exertions of the Abolition Society, whose laudable zeal in the maintenance of human rights, must be greatly scandalised by its continuance. In Connecticut and Rhode Island slavery was abolished four years after its inheritable quality was expunged from the code of Pennsylvania, but slaves were permitted to exist, and are now actually in being, by the operation of their statutes. In New Jersey, according to the census of 1830, there existed the large number of two thousand two hundred and forty-six slaves.
Nor must a fact be omitted in this connexion, that the rapid diminution of slaves at the north, is not solely to be ascribed to the virtue of unaided statutes, but partly to sales
gradual abolition of slavery in Pennsylvania, he had private interviews on the subject, with every member of the government, and no doubt thus essentially contributed to the adoption of that celebrated measure.”—Life of Anthony Benezet by Roberts Vaux.
* In the case of Miller v. Dwilling, decided in the year 1826, and reported in the 14th volume of Sergeant and Rawle's Reports, page 442, Judge Tilghman was called upon to give a construction to the act of 1780. He decides several interesting points, the first of which is, " That the legislature, anxious as it was to abolish slavery, thought it unjust to violate the right which every owner of a slave had to his service; and, therefore, every person who, at the time of passing the act, was a slave, was to remain a slave.”
$ The number of slaves in Pennsylvania, as returned in the census of 1830, is three hundred and eighty-six. I have adopted in the text the number reported by a select Committee of the Senate of Pennsylvania, who were appointed to investigate the cause of the increase since the year 1820, when the number returned was but two hundred and eleven. The Committee exclude from the computation all who were not in being when the abolition act was passed. Vide Journal of the Senate for 1832–3, page 483.