Communipaw [James McCune Smith] to Frederick Douglass, February 16, 1855
For Frederick Douglass' Paper.
FROM OUR NEW YORK CORRESPONDENT.
In continuing the study of the relations of the Free Colored People and the American Anti-Slavery Society, it will be well to look back for a moment at the condition of that people a few years before and up to the advent of that Society, or its great founder Wm. Lloyd Garrison.
The year 1808 was marked by the abolition of the African Slave Trade, which was celebrated throughout the country by the colored people, in meetings, prayers, thanksgivings, and orations, some of which are yet extant in pamphlet form. One of them, delivered by Mr. (afterwards Reverend) Peter Williams, of New York, required the attestation of the Bishop of the Diocese, to win credence to the fact that it was composed by a colored man. Thomas Sydney, William Hamilton, Peter Vogelsang and others, delivered spirited orations on returns of this glorious anniversary. The terms by which these orators addressed their hearers on that day, was universally "Beloved Africans !"— It was not until 1817, when James Forten presided at the famous Anti-Colonization Meeting in Philadelphia, that the claim to be called colored people, or citizens of the birth land, was put forth.
In the year 1827, Slavery was finally abolished in the State of New York, on the 4th of July, a fitting, and intended re-celebration of Independence day. On this occasion there was public rejoicing throughout the State. Austin Steward delivered a public oration (part of which is preserved in print) in the public square in Rochester: a similar ceremony took place in Albany: and in New York city an overwhelming meeting was addressed in eloquent terms by Mr. Thomas L. Jennings: and the meeting was graced and ennobled by the presence of ex-Governor Daniel D. Tompkins, the author of the Emancipation act.
From its organization, March 23rd, 1809, until 1828 or 30, the New York African Society for Mutual Relief, (a benefit Society.) celebrated its Incorporation by the State Legislature, by a procession through Broadway, across the park and back to its hall, where the occasion terminated in an oration and grand dinner. The old banner "Am I not a Man and a Brother?" was borne through the streets, preceded by the Grand Marshal
Samuel Hardenburgh, a magnificent black man, mounted on horse back, with a drawn sword in his hand. Pretty bold conduct this, in a slave State.
In the same year, 1827, the colored people had schools in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and New Haven, but none in Hartford nor Providence. In the inland towns colored and white children, to a considerable extent, attended the same schools. The colored people also, in this year, had a press of their own, in New York city, the , edited by colored men.
Our business character was represented in Philadelphia by James Forten, John Bowers, and Joseph Cassey; in New York by Thomas Perkins, Thomas Downing, Samuel Class, Peter Williams, senior, rival of the Lorrilards, and Peter Vogelsang who was manager of the steamers of the Albany line.
In the religious world we were represented in Boston by the eloquence of Rev. Thomas Paul; in New York by Reverends Peter Williams, Theodore S. Wright and Samuel E. Cornish, all founders of churches; two of which survive their founders.
We had writers also, worthy of the times[.] William Watkins, of Baltimore, flashed his young pen in the columns of the , and afterwards became the most brilliant correspondent of the . The Rev. Peter Williams published a sermon on Colonization, which a few years after, headed off Elliot Cresson, the colonizationist in Glasgow and Edinburgh. To the Rev. Samuel E. Cornish, however, senior Editor of the , belongs the palm as the ablest, most zealous effective writer of that day. Of fine organization, cool temperament, and a singular acuteness of mental vision, he became a leader and defender of our people, in those admirable compositions which he threw off from his Editorial chair. He pursued Colonization with a relentless power which unveiled every ghostly hiding place of that atrocious scheme: he upheld the rightfulness of Emancipation, the equality of the races, and defended amalgamation with a wit and sarcasm which silenced for a long while the redoubtable Major Noah.
There were colored graduates from Boudoin and Amherst Colleges, and colored students at the Medical Colleges in New York and Baltimore: Dr. W. G. Smith, Dr. Wells, and the pure minded and philosophic Dr. John Brown.
Then we had also the New York Philomathean Society, with its debates, its lectures, and orations by colored men in the
city of New York; and a rival association in Philadelphia.
On the 20th April, 1827, a meeting was held in Philadelphia, at which John Bowers presided, and John Gloucester acted as Secretary, for the purpose of erecting a high school for colored youth.
All these elements, all these instrumentalities pointed to the one focus Education, or Self-Evaluation of the Colored People.
Hence, when in 1830-31, Mr. Garrison came among them, he found the Colored People already a "." And both he and the Anti Slavery Societies of his creation, regarded this people and their elevation as a cardinal principle in the Anti-Slavery movement. Indeed, Immediate abolition, and the affranchisement of the already free colored people, comprised the great objects of this organization; the first object was to be effected by acting on Public opinion; the second by practical labor among and in behalf of the free colored people. The great Anti-Slavery effort was to raise the Slaves to the condition of the Free Colored, and the Free Colored to the condition of the whites, in the United States. Mr. Garrison said "Immediate Abolition does not mean that the slaves shall immediately exercise the rights of suffrage, or be eligible to any office, or be emancipated from law, or be free from the benevolent restraints of guardianship. It contends for the immediate personal freedom of the slaves, for their exemption from punishment except where law has been violated, for their employment and reward as free laborers, for their exclusive right to their own bodies and those of their children, for their instruction and subsequent affranchisement." – (, Vol. II. No. 1.)
The New England Anti-Slavery Society was formed Jan. 1st, 1832. The 2nd Article of the Constitution states "The objects of this Society shall be to endeavor by all means sanctioned by law, humanity and religion, to effect the abolition of slavery in the United States, to improve the character and condition of the free people of color, to inform and correct public opinion in relation to their situation and rights, and obtain for them equal, civil and political rights and privileges with the whites." — (, Vol. II., No 7.)
The same ideas, in nearly the same words, became an article in the Constitution of the many Anti-Slavery Societies, formed in New England and other States during the years 1832-3;:and the same also in an article in the Constitution of the great American Anti-
Slavery Society, organized in Philadelphia,
Dec 6th, 1833.
What the N. E. Anti Slavery Society meant by the latter clause of this article of its constitution, is explained by sundry resolutions published by it in the of March 10th, 1832:
, That the friends of the people of color, , in the various towns in New England, be invited to form auxiliaries to this Society.
, That this Society request the parents or guardians of colored lads, who may wish to learn trades in this city (Boston) and its vicinity to make application to this Society for that purpose, and that a committee shall be chosen whose duty it shall be to provide places for such person.
[The following gentlemen were appointed the Committee on Trades, viz: Messrs. Garrison, Fuller, Coffin, Johnson (Oliver) and Rupp.]
, That colored parents who have children, and young lads themselves, be requested to enter their names and places of residence to the Chairman of the Apprentices Committee, whose duty shall be to register the applications made.
In the Report of the New England Anti-Slavery Soceity at its first Annual Meeting, January, 1833, it is stated : "It (the Society) is now making strenuous exertions for the establishment of a MANUAL LABOR SCHOOL FOR COLORED YOUTH, and will probably soon attain its object." -- 12, 1833.
This Society appointed Wm. Lloyd Garrison, agent to colored funds for this Manual Labor School for Colored Youth. Mr. Garrison accepted the agency : and prepared to go to England for the purpose of raising the funds.
A public meeting of the colored citizens of New York was held in Zion Church in April 1833, and another in the Presbyterian Church April 23rd, 1833, to endorse Mr. Garrison's mission to England.
11, 1833) These meetings raised and presented to Mr. Garrison one hundred and thirty dollars towards defraying his expenses. I make this last statement on the authority of Mr. Thomas Downing, of 5 Broad Street, New York City. Mr. Thomas L. Jennings presided at the last named meeting. Another object of Mr. Garrison's visit to England, was, to expose the Colonization Scheme.—But his own statement of his object is contained in the following extract from a letter, written by him in the and dated Liverpool, May 23rd 1833.
"My principal object in visiting England is, to obtain funds for the establishment of a MANUAL LABOR SCHOOL, FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE COLORED YOUR OF OUR COUNTRY."— ( 6, 1833.[)]
(Signed,) WM. LLOYD GARRISON.
This "Manual Labor School for Colored
Youth" is referred to as part and parcel of the Anti-Slavery work of the New England A. S. Society up to its Annual Meeting in 1835; further I have not its proceedings at hand, as they were not published in the in 1836.
The effort to collect funds was not unsuccessful; in the 5, 1834, Mr. Garrison the agent for the school states as follows:
"MANUAL LABOR SCHOOL
"Many of our readers probably recollect that the New England Anti-Slavery Convention warmly recommended the establishment of a Manual Labor School for the education of colored persons.
", including the amount given by the late Mr. Kenrick. We have no doubt that the whole of the moderate sum requisite to establish the proposed seminary, can readily be raised by a little exertion of the friends of the colored race.
"Shall we not then use these exertions? Is there any way in which we can promote the welfare of our oppressed fellow-citizens so successfully, as by giving them moral and intellectual cultivation? Let the free people of color have the same opportunities for acquiring the knowledge which we enjoy, and they will easily vanquish the prejudices which still hold them in subjection. Until they have the same means of developing their powers as white men have, the excellence of their character will never be generally appreciated. * * If we could be certain that in three years colored persons would be admitted to all our seminaries on equal terms with whites, it would be no sufficient reason for neglecting in the mean time, to supply them with such institutions as they need. * * The remarks made at the Convention by several colored persons, afford a conclusive answer to this argument. One of these gentlemen said very pertinently, 'while the grass is growing, the steed is starving.' * * It is next to impossible for a colored man to obtain admittance to any College or Theological institution in New England * * A mere nominal admission into these seminaries is of little value to a colored person, while his fellow students do not regard him as an equal.
"We exhort our friends to give freely to the Manual Labor School. They need not fear that it will interfere with mere direct exertions for the removal of slavery. Those who aid the free people of color in establishing this institution, will be likely to become more interested than ever for their brethren in bondage. And though promoting knowledge is not removing slavery, yet it aids in putting down prejudice, its grand support. The free people of color have a claim on us for such a school, which we ought not, as Christians and fellow-men, to neglect."
"Shall we, where souls are lighted, With wisdom from on high— Shall we to men benighted, The lamp of life deny?"
Such are the facts in this case. If there be any force in language, then did the American Anti-Slavery Society, by its pioneer, the
N.E.A.S. Society, by its various tributary organizations, and by its own act solemnly bind itself to effect the elevation of the free people of color, to equal civil and political rights, as part of its anti-slavery creed, and basis of action. If there be any force in language, they, the New England Anti-Slavery Society and its agent in this matter, Wm. Lloyd Garrison, solemnly pledged themselves as men, Christians and abolitionists, to establish a Manual Labor School for colored youth.
Twenty odd years have elapsed since these pledges were made and published; how have they been fulfilled? Twenty years have elapsed, during which the American Anti-Slavery Society has expended at least half a million of dollars, in agencies, editors' salaries, newspaper publishing, &c., &c., and has controlled two millions of dollars more, in the business relations of its supporters; how many colored youth has this organization or any portion of it, or its supporters, helped to "trades" or to the higher departments of business as clerks, or editors, or merchants?
The American Anti-Slavery Society has had, within its own gift, in its own offices, situations ranging from $1200 to $500 per year, in which colored men of talent could have worked out that sort of proof of the capabilities of the race contemplated in the 2d Article of the Constitution already quoted; but colored men were never placed in these positions, while white men of inferior merit crawled in, "waxed fat and Wicked" the cause by which they had profited, or sought in dignified silence a life long rest from a year or two of most profitable connexion with the "cause." The once highly salaried Stantons, Denisons, Birneys, Welds, and a host of others, are so deeply buried
that the shrieks of freedom in Nebraska cannot reach them in their living graves.—And swarm after swarm of hungry white abolitionists have feasted and fattened, and "dropped" in like manner on the soil which they abandoned.
Indirectly, too, of firms that now flourish in the mercantile world, are they grown up scions of white abolitionists, the Greyibus, Greyabus et Grayicalis, rectum et sinis trossum, russum et prossum cum, (let Edmund Quincy, the historian, finish the sentence,) the brothers, cousins, second cousins (of the Aunt Jennies) of any white man who named the name of anti-slavery, and who were got into clerkships, &c., &c., of the rich business men who belonged to the Anti-Slavery Society; a colored man did now and then get a place as porter, but never, never
was he raised above it, no matter what his talents or acquirements. And if colored men did seek at the hands of abolitionists, situations for their well accomplished sons, they were told, as Robert Purvis, Esq., of Byberry, was told by Mr. Davis, the merchant abolitionist, "No sir; it would injure my business;" and anti-slavery meetings would say as they said in this case, and as they said in the case of Asa Fairbanks, last month, in Providence—Amen!
Twenty years and more have elapsed since Mr. Garrison announced fifteen hundred dollars subscribed (and a large part paid in, no doubt) for the Manual Labor School for colored youth; we do not ask, "where is that money?" we do not think for an instant that he squandered it; his nature is too noble for so mean a sin. Nor do we ask, Where is that Manual Labor School for colorerd youth? in the battles of the kings, our poor little people perished. But we do ask, when, in 1853, we colored people, well assured of aid from Andover, and still deeply needing such a school, began anew an effort to found one, we ask, where was William Lloyd Garrison? Did he, mindful of his early love, and early pledges, (based on a substantial quid pro quo,) and of his first mission to England, did he give us people of color a helping hand, a word of cheer, in public, or even in a whisper ? And when we, smarting under his studied silence, gave vent to our feelings in words, he, in return, accused us of laboring under a "morbid state of mind."—"We are not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and soberness"—Truth, how painful! Soberness, how sad!
We point out to you, gentlemen of the American Anti-Slavery Society—we point out to you, Mr. Garrison, its President, the same terrible destitution of lettered and mechanical and business education among the free blacks of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois especially, and Pennsylvania and New York in part—the same destitution in 1855 that existed in 1833; and we ask you, where are your bowels of mercy ? Part of your mission you have well and thoroughtly accomplished; you have roused the public attention to the sin and shame of slavery; but the other part, to which you were of old equally pledged, you have left undone; and the public will is partly paralysed by this omission. Gentlemen, have you entirely abandoned this second part of your solemn pledge? Have we come to the parting of the ways forever ? Must we erect our Manual Labor School and elevate ourselves in the teeth of the opposition of the American Anti Slavery Society?
But I must close this letter; there is proof enough herein, that if there has been any
"holding aloof" or desertion between the free colored people and the American Anti-Slavery Society, then the American Anti-Slavery Society has deserted the free colored people, who are now, in 1855, on the same platform laid down by John Bowers and John Gloucester, in April, 1827—our platform, on which the anti-slavery host came in 1833—let the Society and its members say whether they remain there still. In one more paper, I propose to say a word on the religious aspect of those relations.