What Shall Be Done for Them?
Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 27, 1861
However much the general condition of the free people of color in the United States may have been ameliorated, yet there exists a constant tendency to withdraw the few privileges heretofore accorded them. Many evidences of harsh legislation have occurred during the past winter illustrating this same tendency. The Legislature of Kentucky passed a law, which stipulates that no slave shall hereafter be emancipated, unless removed from its limits; and any free person of color entering the State shall be liable to an imprisonment for not less than one, or more than five years. A bill passed the Georgia Legislature, which provides that every free person of color found therein after the first of May, 1862, shall be liable to seizure and sale as slaves for life. The Governor of Delaware recommended the repeal of the law of 1855, allowing this class in Maryland to remove and reside in New Castle and Kent counties, in that State; and the Legislature enacted that any free person of color may be sold to the highest bidder for debt. The same element of population in Alabama have been warned to leave at once, or submit to extreme measures. The City Councils of Charleston, S. C., have so heavily taxed the free colored people of that city, as must speedily result in universal abject poverty or their sale into slavery.
Thousands of these people will flock to the North for shelter and the means of living. How will they be received? Their brethren are very generally refused a fundamental right of freemen—that of voting for their rulers. Several States either forbid their acquiring and holding property, or prohibit their entrance and residence by severe penalties. Even in Ohio, an effort was made to move the Legislature to expel such of the Arkansas exiles as took up their abode in that State, and to prevent the admission of other such unfortunates. With this popular feeling existing and likely to exist, this increasing element of population can find no encouragement to regard this country as a permanent residence. Hence, the friends of the Colonization Society propose their settlement in Liberia, not because unfriendly to their improvement here, but because it appears certain that it is neither in the power of benevolence or legislation to remove their disabilities, and to save them from influences which must repress hope and weaken exertion. Causes will operate there to develope the talents, invigorate the faculties, and dignify their purposes. There they will not be depressed by the consideration of their past condition, and by the presence of another race of superior powers and attainments.
Upon this high and unexceptionable ground, the wise, the patriotic and religious of every portion of the Union may cordially unite. The citizens, the States, and the General Government can join in its intent upon accomplishing a great and good end by virtuous means. The latter is estimated to have appropriated to help the Indians in this country $200,000,000 within the last thirty years. These disbursements have arisen now to over $5,000,000 annually. If Congress can thus constitutionally grant money to remove and settle the Indians, why can it not pursue the same course for the Africans? The people of color are beginning to appreciate the fact that invaluable as freedom is to others, it is comparatively of little value to them. They are looking to Africa as their ultimate home, and where the whites will be dependent upon them for missionary and commercial agencies. One hundred and eight of the colored residents of Pennsylvania were colonized in Liberia during the years 1859 and 1860, and as large a number are now desirous of sharing in the same bounty. Let all aid the Colonization Society in the settlement of these people in that Republic. Help will be required only until the commerce which is rapidly growing between Africa and this country will furnish facilities for the same emigration from America to Africa, that is now taking place between Europe and this continent.