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Washington, Bushrod (1762-1829) A view of exertions lately made for the purposes of colonizing the free people of colour, in the United States, in Africa, or elsewhere

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05181 Author/Creator: Washington, Bushrod (1762-1829) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Pamphlet Date: 1817 Pagination: 22 p. ; 20.6 x 13 cm.

Summary of Content: A pamphlet containing Bushrod's memorial as president of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States, along with other writings on the subject of colonization. Includes speeches by Henry Clay and many others, resolutions, and a "brief sketch of Sierra Leone." Printed by Jonathan Elliot. Disbound pamphlet.

Background Information: The president of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color, Bushrod Washington (1762-1829), who served as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1798 to 1829, ...defends colonization as a way to spread the blessing of Christianity and modern technology.
A few African Americans supported African colonization in the belief that it provided the only alternative to continued degradation and discrimination. Paul Cuffe (1759-1817), a Quaker sea captain who was the son of a former slave and an Indian woman, led the first experiment in colonization. In 1815, he transported 38 free blacks to Sierra Leone, and devoted thousands of his own dollars to the cause of colonization.
Virtually all the leading white abolitionists were colonizationists before calling for the immediate emancipation of slaves. But by 1830, abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) had begun to denounce colonization as a wholly impractical solution to the problem of slavery problem. The impracticality of colonization was illustrated by the annual export of over 50,000 slaves to the U.S. The American Colonization Society persuaded just 259 free blacks to migrate to Liberia, bringing the total number of African Americans colonized in Africa to only 1400. The biggest problems that the American Colonization Society faced, aside from finance and opposition from free blacks, were disease and mortality.
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Full Transcript: Excerpt from Bushrod Washington - Colonization: It is now reduced to be a maxim, equally approved in philosophy and practice, that the existence of distinct and separate castes, or classes, ...forming exceptions to the general system of policy adapted to the community, is an inherent vice in the composition of society; pregnant with baneful consequences, both moral and political and demanding the utmost exertion of human energy and foresight to remedy or remove it....
It may be reserved for our government, (the first to denounce an inhuman and abominable traffic, in the guilt and disgrace of which most of the civilized nations of the world were partakers) to become the honorable instrument, under Divine Providence, of conferring a still higher blessing upon the large and interesting portion of mankind...by demonstrating that a race of men, composing numerous tribes, spread over a continent of vast and unexplored extent, fertility, and riches; known to the enlightened nations of antiquity; and who had yet made no progress in the refinements of civilization; from whom history has preserved no monuments of arts or arms: that even this, hitherto, ill-fated race, may cherish the hope of beholding at last the orient star revealing the best and highest aims and attributes of man.

View of Exertions Lately Made for the Purpose of Colonizing the Free People of Colour
Soon after the commencement of the present session of Congress the expediency of colonizing free people of colour became a subject of consideration with many gentlemen of respectability from the different states. The propriety of such a measure could it be carried into effect, was generally admitted. It was thought that a design of such importance so intimately connected with the best interest of the citizens of the U. States, and promising at the same time to improve and meliorate that class of the community for whom provision was to be made, should not be abandoned without a vigorous and a thorough effort to carry it into execution.
The formation of a colonization society was therefore proposed. Many were led the more readily to approve of an institution of this kind, from a knowledge that this subject occupies the attention of many worthy citizens in different states….The following preamble and resolution were approved by the House of Delegates of [Virginia]….
"Whereas the General Assembly of Virginia have repeatedly sought to obtain an asylum, beyond the limits of the United States, for such persons of color, as had been, or might be, emancipated under the laws of this commonwealth, but have hitherto found all their efforts frustrated, either by the disturbed state of other nations, or domestic causes equally unpropitious to its success:
"They now avail themselves of a period when peace has healed the wounds of humanity, and the principal nations of Europe have concurred, with the government of the U. States, in abolishing the African slave trade, (a traffic, which this commonwealth, both before and since the revolution, zealously sought to terminate) to renew this effort…."
Mr. [Henry} Clay said…That class, of the mixt population of our country was peculiarly situated. They neither enjoyed the immunities of freemen, nor were they subject to the incapacities of slaves, but partook in some degree of the qualities of both. From their condition, and the unconquerable prejudices resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, both as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off. Various schemes of colonization had been thought of, and a part of our own continent, it was thought by some, might furnish a suitable establishment for them. But, for his part, Mr. C. said, he had a decided preference for some part of the coast of Africa. There ample provision might be made for the colony itself, and it might be rendered instrumental to the introduction, into that extensive quarter of the globe, of the arts, civilization and Christianity. There was a peculiar, a moral fitness in restoring them to the land of their fathers. And if, instead of the evils and sufferings which we had been the innocent cause of inflicting upon the inhabitants of Africa, we can transmit to her the blessings of our arts, our civilization and our religion, may we not hope that America will extinguish a great portion of that moral debt which she has contracted to that unfortunate continent?
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People: Washington, Bushrod, 1762-1829

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: African American HistoryColonizationSlaveryReform MovementAfrica

Sub Era: The First Age of Reform

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