Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Garrison Gives Up on Colonization

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 21, 2016



I happened upon this item from just the fourth issue of William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist paper, The Liberator, from January 22, 1831:


Formerly, the purchase of Texas by our Government, for the purpose of bestowing it as a gift upon our colored population, was a favorite opinion of ours; but we have settled down into the belief, that the object is neither practicable nor expedient. In the first place, it is not probable that the Congress would make the purchase; nor, secondly, is it likely that the mass of our colored people would remove without some compulsory process; nor, thirdly, would it be safe or convenient to organise them as a distinct nation among us,—an imperium in imperio. The fact is, it is time to repudiate all colonization schemes, as visionary and unprofitable; all those, we mean, which have for their design the entire separation of the blacks from the whites. We must take our free colored and slave inhabitants as we find them—recognise them as countrymen who have extraordinary claims upon our charities—give them the advantages of education—respect them as members of one great family, who may be made useful in society and honorable in reputation. This is our view of the subject.


Garrison is writing here five years before the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, and thirty years before secession and Sumter.

Notice also that for Garrison, using a “compulsory process” of colonization of African Americans, free or (formerly) enslaved, was a deal-breaker. Like Lincoln, whose interest in colonization schemes waffled back and forth over the years, before finally being rejected completely, it was always a matter of voluntary resettlement rather than expulsion.

From the online collection at, that includes what looks to be the entire 35-year run of The Liberator. Check it out.


Garrison portrait via National Portrait Gallery.



9 Responses

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  1. OhioGuy said, on March 22, 2016 at 12:32 am

    Interesting read. Thanks for sharing how Garrison wrestled with the colonization issue early in his career. For many it was a well-meaning idea that just turned out to be totally unworkable and morally wrong. Garrison seemed to see this earlier than some, like Lincoln, who only abandoned it when he saw the success of the United States Colored Troops in the field. This strengthened his resolve in the principles of the Emancipation Proclamation and made further talk of colonization laughable.

  2. Jon Morrison said, on March 22, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Lincoln was for colonization-but for voluntary colonization. He said as much in the preliminary EP & in his address to Congress in December of 1862. Where the problem lies with Lincoln is that he mistakenly believed that the vast majority would like to leave the U.S. to get away from their former masters. His Fall of 1862 meeting at the White House with black leaders crushed that notion. Some blacks did wish to leave though, & the program continued forward, though without the enthusiasm of earlier times.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 22, 2016 at 9:15 am

      Yep. He struggled with the idea off and on for years.

  3. msb said, on March 23, 2016 at 4:22 am

    I think people like Garrison were who Lincoln had in mind when he said (IIRC), “They are the devil to drive, but their faces are turned Zion-wards.”

  4. Leo said, on April 5, 2016 at 7:24 am

    I wonder what Garrison could have done with the Internet.

    • Andy Hall said, on April 5, 2016 at 9:14 am

      There was a bill in the Texas Legislature in the 2015 session, inspired by a middle school student, to change Confederate Heritage Month here to Civil War Heritage Month, of similar wording. It was defeated, but I’m sure it will come up again next January.

    • Andy Hall said, on April 5, 2016 at 9:29 am

      BTW, it’s “Texas Confederate History and Heritage Month,” and was recognized by a resolution of the Texas Senate in 1998. It does not have the force of law, and has no official recognition otherwise. AFAIK the governor here does not issue any proclamations related to it, although SCV and UDC groups frequently get official proclamations at the local level.

      There is a “Confederate Heroes Day” observed on Robert E. Lee’s birthday in January, which sometimes coincides with the official MLK Day observance. When they fall on the same day, Confederate Heroes Day is officially NOT observed, and is otherwise a “skeleton crew” day for state employees, rather than a full-on holiday. I get the idea that the State Auditor, whose office sets the official state employee observance schedule, is more than a little embarrassed by it.

      • Leo said, on April 5, 2016 at 10:30 am

        Governor Bryant is catching all kinds of Hell from historians and Mississippians generally tired of being embarrassed, but he shows no sign of changing his tune. The governor has officially balked at the idea of making May Union Veterans History month. To make matters worse, there is a very controversial bill on his desk waiting to be signed called “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”. Some feel is will do nothing but legalize discrimination against the LGBT community and invite more ridicule of the state’s already poor national image.

        • Andy Hall said, on April 5, 2016 at 10:34 am

          “There is a very controversial bill on his desk waiting to be signed called “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”. Some feel is will do nothing but legalize discrimination against the LGBT community and invite more ridicule of the state’s already poor national image.”

          Bills like that are all the rage these days. I can’t wait until some health inspector shuts down a barbecue joint because his “sincerely-held religious beliefs” mandate that pork is unclean.

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