Recap: What I’m looking for with my examination of The American Colonization Society

Posted on July 25, 2015 by


Since my last blog post, I’ve been looking through my notes, starting to compile a couple lists… but, along the way, I’ve been distracted by a few findings that might be of interest to readers.

Of course, my thinking, in going through records of the American Colonization Society (ACS), is that I might find something that could demonstrate a position against stereotypes of those who joined the Confederacy… that it was not always the case that they were interested in participating with the preservation of slavery in mind; that there were those who genuinely regretted the situation the South was in… how slavery was a detriment to their society AND a moral evil; and that, when it boiled down to it, there were those who held these beliefs,and yet were genuinely inspired to defend the South based on the threat posed by Lincoln’s call for troops (and, by the way, the whole, “yes, but it was treason” thing… I’ve touched on that a little in other posts before and recently. After reviewing what I said in the past, I think I’ve remained consistent in my thoughts on that). Yes, of course, this meant, by default, even those people were serving a cause that slavery was a right and must be preserved. Again, I think that the more pressing issue to these other folks was that threat, and their ideas on the evils of slavery, at that point, became of secondary concern. There was a greater, more pressing that at that moment. Would they… could they return to their mission after the war? I think that’s difficult to answer without written words clarifying that issue, and considering the possibility of a division in the South even after Confederate victory (and I hate speculative history).

Nonetheless, in my research, have I found such people? The answer is, yes, I believe I have. Yet, is it of limited value (a small segment within certain regions of the South?), or does it mean something more when we consider non-slaveholders… and oddly enough, even some slaveholders? I think this is key… that even when we see Confederates who reflected back on the past and make claims that they were not fighting for slavery, this is where they were coming from. It was not “apologist”, but a genuine understanding, as they knew it, both at the time the war began, and later, when reflecting back on the war. Problem is, I fear, that they often didn’t take time to acknowledge the fact that 1) there were those who fought for slavery, 2) various states clearly show that they entered secession with the intent of preserving slavery as a right… a states right, and 3) yes, if successful in the end, Confederate victory meant the preservation of slavery. Then again, how often, when explaining our positions, today, do we actually make time to detail every possible counter-situation to our own?

While I think I’ve made my objective clear enough, keep in mind that the ACS was not made-up of Southerners alone. I don’t know what the ratio comparison was (I haven’t been motivated yet to do the tallying), but it seems that the North had as many, if not more members than the South (I think it’s more important to consider the names of people I see in the ACS). Furthermore, I think there’s a consistency worth noting… in the written words in their annual reports and pamphlets demonstrating a mindset between members from both sections… South and North.

Likewise, members from both sections dealt with opposition. In the North, abolitionists weren’t in favor of colonization, and felt it was not the right way to get to that end goal of emancipation for all. Meanwhile, in the South, Southern ACS members had to deal with greater resistance that was fueled by those who sought economic gain in slavery, and felt that the goals of the ACS undermined their hopes for the preservation of that system (although some colonization societies demonstrate activities that support slavery… I know, it gets really tricky).

I do get the idea that, in the North, compared to abolitionists, the ACS had much more support. This would probably come as a surprise to several folks, today, who like to hold up that moralistically superior high road for the North, claiming that their region is a shining example for all. Clearly, those, in serious studies, who look at both regions, know that there are factors which folks in contemporary times don’t consider.

There’s a good deal of work ahead, and realize, I’m not fooling myself. I don’t think this will sway minds and influence a multitude of people to think differently. A blog post… even a series of blog posts… won’t do that. At the very least, I plant something on the Web for people to encounter in searches of key words, when they look for an answer. They can either believe or not believe…  but the info is out there for folks to consider. What I share in this series of posts is a demonstrated process… transparency (if you will) in that process.

I’ve rambled enough on this, however. What about one of those interesting finds I mention earlier in this post? Coming up next…