“we deprecate the horrors of slavery”

Posted on July 9, 2015 by


An Update: Please see an added comment at the bottom of this post. Thanks.


Now… as to where those quotes originated (those I used in yesterday’s post)…

They came from The Annual Report of the Auxiliary Society of Frederick County, VA. For Colonizing the Free People of Colour in the United States (1820). I have a feeling some folks might wince at this, as there are various opinions on colonizing “free people of colour” in Africa. Certainly, you are free to express what you think you know in the comments below, but… give this examination of the Auxiliary Society of Frederick County just a little of your time, if you will. Even my own opinions aren’t “firmed-up” just yet, and I’m admittedly an unseasoned student regarding the full story of the American Colonization Society. What interests me most, however, is that this bunch out of Frederick County was perhaps the most successful out of all of the auxiliaries. We’ll get to those successes in time… as well as where they began to fall short, mostly due to funds (it seems).


The publication came actually late in that year, following the annual meeting… “On Saturday the 4th day of November, 1820”, which was held in Winchester…

…When, agreeably to a request of a committee of arrangement, William L. Clark Esq. delivered a very appropriate and impressive address. After the address the following report was read. As soon as the ordinary business of the society was dispatched, it was moved, seconded and carried, that the thanks of the society be presented to Col. Augustine C. Smith, who had drawn up the report, for the services he had rendered…

While this might be nothing more than administrative fluff, I felt I should note the names… getting back to just who they were, I hope, at a later time.

The body of the report follows on the next page, describing how…

… this Society has been in operation for three years, during which time it has met with much encouragement. The encouragement has indeed transcended its utmost expectation; and as this is the first written report of the proceedings of the board of managers, it is deemed necessary, for the purpose of diffusing information, to give both a particular narration of the exertions made by the Frederick Auxiliary Society, and also a general view of the objects and progress of the American Colonization Society. This course is rendered more requisite by the misrepresentations of some who are either ignorant of, or hostile to, the objects of the Society.

I like this short quote. They Society doesn’t just praise itself for its success, but also feels it necessary to reach out to the doubters… and even the haters. Not only did the objectives of the American Colonization Society come (later) under scrutiny by abolitionists, but also from slave owners who were quite content in leaving slavery just as it was, and/or looked to expanding it.

More, then…

While we deprecate the horrors of slavery, it is consoling to reflect that our country, is originally guiltless of the crime, which was legalized by G. Britain under our colonial government, and consummated by commercial avarice, at a time when our powerless legislatures vainly implored the mother country to abolish a trade so impious in its character and dreadful in its consequences. In the year 1772, Virginia discouraged the importation of slaves by the imposition of duties, and supplicated the throne to remove the evil; and in 1778, having broken the fetters of British tyranny, she passed a law prohibiting the further importation of slaves.*

You gotta love that one line… “we deprecate the horrors of slavery”, in that, yes… this is coming from Southerners. This said, however, I don’t know that they are being completely honest with themselves regarding the history of slavery during the colonial era. While I spent a good deal of time on the history of colonial America in the first year of my graduate studies in history (I later fell back to the old faithful of Civil War studies), my memory on Virginia legislation (her own legislators) suggests that not all contributed to halting the course of slavery in the eventual Commonwealth. Nonetheless, at the very least, by looking at what is said here, we can see how the Society is doing its utmost to distance itself from the roots of slavery.

Also, note that “*” at the end of the quote… there is an explanation at the bottom of the page:

It will be recollected that Virginia did not at all avail herself of that humiliating concession made by the framers of the Federal Constitution of importing slaves till the year 1802.

Alright, let’s continue…

The attention of the continental Congress was called to this interesting subject as early as the year 1774, and the opposition then expressed to the slave trade was afterwards effectuated by a law enacted by the constitutional Congress as soon as its delegated powers would permit. In an address which was carried unanimously in both houses of the British parliament, it is said “that the United States of America were honourably distinguished as the first which pronounced condemnation of this guilty traffic.” In pursuance of our example, enforced by the eloquence of Clarkson, Wilberforce, and their coadjutors, the British government, and subsequently the other nations of Europe (with the exception of Portugal) have fully united in this work of humanity; whilst Portugal has also renounced the slave trade to the north of the equator.

More distancing… but, hold on a second… did you see that reference to Wilberforce? If you know who he was, you’ll know the slave holder who wanted to remain a slave holder would be rather uncomfortable in invoking the name. If you don’t know about him, please see what is said about his activities regarding the slave trade, here. Some might recall the name in a movie… Amazing Grace (and, yes, it, like most movies about historical events, had its issues, but…).

Also of note… one of the members of the Society was quite interested in Wilberforce… William Meade… who was eventually the third Episcopal Bishop of Virginia. There are various pieces on the Web one can read about him, regarding his views on slavery, though… by my readings, I’m having doubts about how he is portrayed in some of these. I don’t think I need to issue a spoiler alert before saying, I think this guy hasn’t been given a fair shake. I’ll get to this later on.

There’s more coming from this little pamphlet. I hope you won’t find the journey (readings and brief analytical commentary) a tedious one, but, rather, still worth your while.

Please share with those who you think might find the study of interest.


Update: I just received a link to the following YouTube clip regarding the comments of a Georgetown Professor, in response to a woman’s comments regarding her Confederate ancestor. How should we consider this professor’s comments… and his understanding of history… considering what I’m laying out in this series of blog posts? When we consider how the Society above affixed their names to such strong statements against slavery… can this professor be so sure about what her Southern ancestor really wanted? I get the generalization he makes.. that, by default, all Confederate soldiers, in the end, were supporting a government that wished to secure slavery, yet… when does that generalization get slung about too easily? Should he assume this much about a person’s ancestor?