Background of the new colony for “free persons of colour”

Posted on July 10, 2015 by


Continuing from yesterday’s post

While I’m still in a period of “gaining a better understanding” when it comes to the proposed colonization of “free persons of colour” (see the grouping of books I’ve acquired in the last month or so, to the right… and you can also see that this study involves the study of Episcopalians at that time… and Francis Scott Key being one of them), the folks in the Auxiliary Society of Frederick County appear to have written this pamphlet with the purpose of education others at the time. It was, after all, the first published report from their Society. For all of the time they spent outlining the history of the colonization effort, up to that point, it’s clear that they were trying to change minds… and garner greater financial support for their mission. I’m going to transcribe this section of the pamphlet for the next two posts (this one and the next).

Keep in mind… the effort was to colonize “free persons of colour”, but that does not necessarily mean they were colonizing people who were already free. In fact, slaves were manumitted with this in mind, and I’ll give examples at a later point.

I suppose I could have written a summary of what they said about the history up to that point, but I preferred using exactly what they said… hopefully, better conveying a sense of understanding as they saw things. I have provided hyperlinks to some of the names mentioned in the text; by all means, look into each further, as they provide a bit more information that may be of use in your own considerations of this history of colonization. Take particular note that… this was a Southern-published pamphlet… and the members of the Society clearly held Northerners, who was also a part of the greater project, in high esteem. I didn’t find a really good summary of Ann Mifflin’s association with the idea of colonization, so I encourage you to search for segments of that story in various entries throughout the Web. Any bold emphasis you see below is my addition, not original to the text as shown in the pamphlet.

The French revolution, the colony of Sierra Leone was formally established, as an asylum for captured Africans, on the very spot where modern slavery commenced. This coincidence is truly remarkable, and connected with the progress of the principles of civil liberty, and the many laudable institutions of the present revolutionary period, for the propagation of Christianity, and the gradual extension of human happiness, may serve to convince us that the omnipotent being “who seeth not as man seeth,” can direct these astonishing events to work together for the good of his creatures, even amidst the wreck of nations, the crush of empires, and the desolation of the world.

From the successful establishment of the colony of Sierra Leone, the idea was probably first suggested in this country of colonizing the free people of colour. In the year 1802, Mr. Jefferson, then president of the U. States, in compliance with the request of the Virginia legislature, communicated by Governor Monroe, endeavored to accomplish the important object of our Society by a negotiation with the Sierra Leone company, and afterwards with Portugal : but the attempt at that time unavoidably failed, and was perhaps prematurely made.

Not discouraged, however, with the failure, we find the venerable patriot, in 1811, again approbating the proposition of Ann Mifflin, of the society of Friends, to procure a colonizing establishment on the coast of Africa. In short, the advocates of the plan of colonization increased, until on the 21st of December, 1816, the first meeting to form a colonizing Society was held at Washington, and shortly afterwards the American Society was established by the particular exertions of Doctor [Robert] Finley, of New Jersey, and under the patronage of individuals who are considered ornaments to their country ; many of whom occupy a seat in the highest councils of the nation, and some in every department of the government. Auxiliary associations followed in rapid succession, and on the 20th of September, 1817, was formed the society of Frederick County, Va.
Encouraged by the approbation of a committee of Congress, of the legislatures of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee, of various ecclesiastical synods and conventions, and of a host of friends not less distinguished for their wisdom than their virtue, of every profession, and from every section of the United States, the American Society, with a degree of prudence only equaled by its unshaken resolution, proceeded to adopt such incipient measures as were necessary to lay the foundation of the splendid edifice which it proposed to erect as a refuge for suffering humanity. Its first act was to appoint Samuel J. Mills and Ebenezer Burgess, “gentlemen possessing all the qualifications requisite for the important trust confided to them, as agents to explore the western coast of Africa, and to collect such information as might assist the government of the United States in selecting a suitable district on that continent for the proposed settlement.” These agents discharged their duty with the strictest fidelity, and after collecting the most ample and accurate information on the subjects committed to their discharge, the result of the mission to Africa “leaves no further room to doubt that a suitable territory, on the coast of that continent, may be obtained for the contemplated colony, at less expense than had been anticipated.”

After the favorable report of the agents was generally known, Congress passed an act on the 3d of March 1819, authorizing the president to employ, whenever he shall deem it expedient, any of the armed vessels of the U. States, on the coast of Africa, or elsewhere, to capture all American vessels engaged in carrying on the slave trade, in contravention of the acts of Congress prohibiting the same, and to bring into the United States all negroes found on board such captured vessels; which negroes he is further empowered to remove beyond the limits of the U. State, and to appoint agents, residing on the coast of Africa, to receive them. One hundred thousand dollars were appropriated to carry this act into execution. The act just referred to was evidently intended to co-operate with the humane exertions of the American Society; and in conformity with this construction the president has appointed two agents, with competent salaries, to select a proper situation on the African coast (in conjunction with the agents of the colonizing society) as an asylum for the captured negroes, and this situation will be that adopted for our colony, which will thereby enjoy the protection and support of the government, while it will assist the latter in enforcing the act of March 1819.

The American Society, in the course of the present year, chartered a vessel at New York, for the purpose of transporting to Africa a select number of free persons of colour from the numerous applicants solicitous of embarking as first settlers of the colony. Those selected consisted of industrious tradesmen, and other persons of intelligence, sobriety, and moral deportment, whose qualifications were peculiarly adapted to the exigency. Many were necessarily rejected, on account of the limited funds of the society, and it was truly afflicting to behold their disappointment and chagrin. At the request of the President of the U. States, the vessel was subsequently re-chartered by government, and the free persons of colour who embarked have been transported at the public expense to the African coast, to found a settlement which may serve as well for the colony, as for a receptacle to the captured negroes under the act to which we have already referred. This band of colonists was hospitably received by John Kizel, a coloured man and a chieftain of the Island of Sherbro; and after a temporary residence in that Island, which is situated but a short distance from the continent, the colonists are to proceed to the place of their permanent abode on the Bagroo river, about twenty miles from its mouth, where the adjacent territory promises as the advantages which commerce, agriculture, manufacture, and salubrious climate, can bestow. On this branch of the subject we shall enlarge in a subsequent part of our report.

More to follow