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B. D. J. to Frederick Douglass, November 7, 1853



Emigration Convention.

CHICAGO, Nov. 7, 1853.

FRIEND DOUGLASS:—The advocacy in this
country of any measure which tends to ef-
fect injuriously or otherwise, the moral or
political condition of the colored people as
a class, effects also injuriously or otherwise
in the same manner the most humble indi-
vidual of this class.

I have observed, with no ordinary interest
during the last two or three months, a dis-
cussion through the medium of your valu-
able sheet, and also in the columns of the
Aliened American, (by moral worth;) the
propriety and impropriety of holding in
Cleveland, some time during the ensuing
year, a National Emigration Convention.

The advocates of the measure seem to be
honestly impressed with the conviction, that
a Convention of this character is strictly in
harmony with our interest, and, indeed, al-
most necessary to our indentity as a people;
whilst those who oppose the measure seem
equally honest in their denunciation of it,
as unwise and suicidal. Immediately after
the adjournment of the Rochester Conven-
tion, and before the minutes of the body had
been published, a few of our intelligent men
put forth a call for this National Emigration
, thus arrogating to themselves the
right to condemn in a national capacity, the
doings of the Rochester Convention; and
implying that its action had failed to meet
the approbation of the people, because it
had failed to recommend National Emigra-

A very slight investigation into the subject
will prove the falsity of this assumption.—The intelligent and thinking portion of the
colored people of the United States have
long since repudiated all schemes for general
emigration; and whenever they have spoken
collectively, they have declared their uncom-
promising hostility to all kinds of coloniza-
tion, and their unwavering attachment to this
their native homes. Why, sir, their gener-
ous patriotism and love of county scorns
the idea of all such schemes of expatriation.

Why do these gentlemen continue to urge


upon us, this odious detestable meas-
ure? why continue to harrass the minds of
the people with this exploded one-idea ques-
It only serves to embolden our op-
pressors to renewed efforts to pass those hel-
lish black laws
throughout the free States,
such as disgrace at the present moment our
own State; it was this same foolish agitation,
some few years ago, in the Southern part of
the State (Egypt,) that gave paternity and
existance to those barbarian enactments.—That monster, the Colonization Society,
thought it discovered in this agitation a dis-
satisfaction on the part of our poeple—a
spirit of emigration, increasing among them,
and thought to take advantage of it, by hav-
ing the SLAVE BILL PASSED; the effect has
been, to open the eyes of our people, to the
true character of this Society, and they have
ceased all agitation on this subject, and re-
solved to remain at home.

If M. R. Delaney, J. M. Whitfield and oth-
ers wish to leave the United States for Af-
rica, South America, the Antilles, or any oth-
er portion of the globe, why not make their
arrangements by private correspondence,
and leave in a quiet and peaceable manner
and not attempt to give their little move-
ment a national character, and by this means
create dissensions amongst the colored peo-
ple? J. M. Whitfield, who has been thrust
forward as the principal defender of this vile
sheme of expatriation, has a most singular
mode of establishing for himself a life of
honesty and consistency; and in spite of my
apprehensions, Mr. Editor, of crippling or
weakening his influence in the Emigration
, I must expose it. In an ad-
dress delivered before the Moral and Mental
Improvement Association of Buffalo, De-
cember 22d, 1846, Mr. Whitfield spoke as

"We are accustomed to hear loud plaud-
its upon the heroism of the Pilgrim Fathers;
and, doubtless, it required no small degree
of physical courage to encounter the dan-
gers attendant upon settling in a new coun-
try, amid savage tribes; yet it cannot be
denied that it was MORAL COWARDICE which
caused them to leave their native land."

It would have required a far higher order
of moral courage and patriotism to have re-
mained at home, and waged a moral warfare
against the dark spirit of persecution, and
to have endured the ourtages, hatred and
scorn, which would have been heaped upon
them; but they had not the moral courage
necessary for this, and, therefore, they fled
to seek a home in the wilds of the Western

How much more noble and patriotic has
been the conduct of the colored people of
this country; persecution on every side has as-
sailed them, and sought to force them from the
. Instead of the inhospitable wilderness,
civilized countries have opened their arms,
and invited them to their shores; but they
have remembered their brethern in bonds, as
bound with them, and instead of fleeing like
COWARDLY POLTROONS from the great moral
strife waging between liberty and slavery
they have elisted on the side of freedom, re-
solved to free their county and countrymen
from the curse of slavery, or


Their condust has ever been in accord-
ance with the truly patriotic motto, "Our
country at all times, to sustain her when
right, and to right her when wrong."

No language can describe, no finite mind
can conceive the courage, the heroism ne-
cessary to enable a class of men to endure,
without retaliation, the unmerited contume-
ly, the scorn and outrageous oppression of
others, and combat their violence only by
the moral means of truth and reason.

This is the God-like courage which was
manifested by the Savior
of mankind, and his

The principal aim of the great leader of
Irish repeal, has been to infuse some portion
of this spirit into the Irish people. It is
the lack of this which forces so many of
them to despair of obtaining their rights in
their own country, and drives them to seek
an asylum here; and as they had not the
moral courage to combat oppression manful-
ly and firmly in their own country, neither
have they the courage to sympathize with
the oppressed in the land of their adoption;
but after having recently fled from the
struggles in their native land between justice
and oppression, they have enlisted here on
the side of the oppressor, and proved them-
selves the most inveterate enemies of free-

This is the kind of courage which has
been pre-eminently displayed by the colored
people of this country. Many individuals
have gone forth to foreign lands, and have
been received by the great and learned of
those countries with marked distinction and
respect, and assigned the rank in society
which their talents entitled them to occupy.
But they have, almost to a man, resigned
the brilliant prospects set before them, and
returned to aid in regenerating their native
land. And now, in the face of all these
facts, our oppressors endeavor to justify
their conduct by prating about the mental
inferiority of the blacks.

Mr. Editor, the above are noble senti-
ments, worthy the head and heart of a pa-
triot; but sir, contrast them with the senti-
ments of Mr. Whitfield, as recently put forth
in answer to the objections made by your-
self and others to this emigration scheme;
and it shows up, in its true light, the consist-
ency of Mr. Whitfield, and also shows that
one or the other set of opinions published
by the same author, but so widely different
in sentiment, are the honest opinions of the
gentleman. Will he inform us which he en-

He will doubtless tell us what he has
done, like many other public men who have
changed their questions of policy; but I will
tell that gentleman that all such political
somersets have generally militated against their
authors, and, in most instances, destroyed
their political fortunes eternally. Mr. W.
need not hope for a less friendly fate in his

Yours for God and liberty,

B. D. J


B. D. J.




B.D.J. to Frederick Douglass. PLIr: Frederick DouglassP, 18 November 1853. Denounces the Emigration Convention and emigrationist policies; includes a fragment of J. M. Whitfield’s speech in Buffalo.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper