xt766t0gtt4j https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt766t0gtt4j/data/mets.xml Breckinridge, Robert J. (Robert Jefferson), 1800-1871. 1851  books b92-143-29441969 English A.G. Hodges & Co., printers, : Frankfort : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Black race. Black race  : some reflections on its position and destiny, as connected with our American dispensation : a discourse delivered before the Kentucky Colonization Society,, at Frankfort, on the 6th of February, 1851 / by Robert J. Breckinridge.e. text Black race  : some reflections on its position and destiny, as connected with our American dispensation : a discourse delivered before the Kentucky Colonization Society,, at Frankfort, on the 6th of February, 1851 / by Robert J. Breckinridge.e. 1851 2002 true xt766t0gtt4j section xt766t0gtt4j 
         THE BLACK RACE:


                  AS CO".ECTED WITH


                 A DISCOURSE

                 DELIVERED BEFORE


               AT FRANKFORT,

           ON THE CTH OF FEBRUARY, 1851.


               [PUBLISHED BY THE SOCIETY.]

               FRANKFORT, KENTUCKY.
            A. G. HODGES  CO ....... PRINTERS.

 This page in the original text is blank.



Gentlemen of the Colonization Society of the State of Kentucky:
  It is now just twenty years since I was required to deliver a dis-
course, in this place, upon the same subject which is to occupy our
attention at present, and on the invitation of the same society whose
annual meeting we now celebrate. That occasion, like this, had been
preceded by a great agitation in the public mind, upon topics of vast
importance, connected with the position and destiny of the black race
in this countiy, and therefore connected, more or less, with the ques-
tion of their colonization. In that agitation, as in the one through
which this state has very lately passed, it was my lot to hold and ad-
vocate opinions which did not commend themselves to a majority of
the people. Now, as then, having proved myself faithful to my con-
victions, I shall prove myself faithful to the commonwealth. It is
for the whole people to lay the great principles of the social state:
it is for the smaller number to acquiesce: it is for all together to work
out harmoniously the common destiny, upon the established princi-
ples of the government, and it is for all to commit to an overruling
providence, the accomplishment, in his own good way, and his own
accepted time, of his own great designs-ready alike to obey his call,
or to be still at his command.
  From a period still more remote than that I have just stated, this
society has stood by its great work, and borne, from year to year, its
faithful testimony. Perhaps no series of public discourses can be
found, proceeding from a succession of abler men, or replete with more
profound instruction, than those which have been delivered here, du-
ring the last twenty three years. The changes of that long period
have been very great and most affecting, and they admonish us in a
way to which we ought to give heed. But the principles of our great
cause cannot change, and the spirit which prompts our devotion to it
ought to survive all changes. The spirit of a wise and earnest phi-
lanthropy, laboring upon principles which it would seem impossible for a
good man to disapprove to accomplish objects at once beneficent and
immense-and to accomplish them by means which great experience
has shown to be effectual in themselves, and free from all just objec-
tion. The course of remark which I propose to myself on this occa-
sion will, I trust, suggest to you some additional considerations sup-


porting this broad view of the subject, and illustrating the greatness
and the goodness of the cause of African colonization.
  The unity of the human race must be considered a fundamental and
an accepted truth. Every department of knowledge has been search-
ed for evidence, and all respond with a uniform testimony. The phys-
ical structure, constitution, and habits of the race- the mode in which
it is produced, in which it exists, in which it perishes-every thing
that touches its mere animal existence, demonstrates the absolute cer-
tainty of its unity-so that no other generalization of physiology is
more clear and more sure. Rising one step, to the highest manifesta-
tion of man's physical organization-his use of language and the pow-
er of connected speech-the most profound survey of this most com-
plex and tedious part of knowledge, conducts the enquirer to no con-
clusion more indubitable than that there is a common origin, a com-
mon organization, a common nature, underlying and running through
this endless variety of a common power, peculiar to the race and to
it alone. Thus a second science-philology-has borne its marvelous
testimony. Rising one more step, and passing more completely into
a higher region, we find the rational and moral nature of men of eve-
ry age and kindred, absolutely the same. Those great faculties by
which man alone-and yet by which every man-perceives that there
is in things that distinction which we call true and false, and that oth-
er distinction which we call good and evil; upon which distinctions
and which faculties rests at last the moral and the intellectual destiny
of the entire race; belonging to us as men, without which we are not
men, with which we are the head of the visible creation of God. So
has a third science-the science which treats of the whole moral con-
stitution of man, embracing in its wide scope many subordinate sci-
ences-delivered its testimony. If we rise another step, and survey
man as he is gathered into families, and tribes, and nations, with an
endless variety of development, we still behold the broad foundations
of a common nature reposing under all-the living proofs of a com-
mon origin struggling through all-the grand principles of a common
being ruling in the midst of all. So a fourth, and the youngest of
the sciences-ethnology-brings her tribute. And now, from this
lofty summit survey the whole track of ages. In their length and in
their breadth, scrutinize the recorded annals of mankind. There is
not one page on which one fact is written-which favors the historical
idea of a diversity of nature or origin-while the whole scope of hu-
man story involves, assumes, and proclaims, as the first and grandest
historic truth, the absolute unity of the race. And then, mounting
from earth to heaven, ask God-the God of truth-and He will tell
you, that the foundation truth of all his work of creation and of prov-
idence, is the sublime certainty that our race was created, in his own


image, aud of one blood; and thereupon, when they had fallen, he of-
fered to them a common salvation, through his only begotten Son,
made manifest in their common nature!                4L
  Most pregnant and most practical, is this great truth. A common
origin and a common nature must, in common circumstances, produce
a common development and a common destiny. That the develop-
ment and the destiny of every portion of our race have not been in all
respects similar, is therefore to be attributed to the diverse circum-
stances which have attended the career of the different parts of it.
There was in all the same original capacity to be elevated with the
highest-the same original liability to be sunken with the lowest. A
long course of fortunate events may develope a condition of greatness
and glory, while a long course of misfortune may produce a terrible
degradation. But the loftiest has no guarantee against decay, and
the lowest are still capable of being redeemed. Dangers common to
humanity forever impend over us, and glories forever beckon us to
arise from the dust. A bond of common brotherhood unites every
portion of the race; it is felt the most keenly by those who are the
most exalted; and, even in the most abject, its weak pulsations still
live to attest the depth of the truth, that our race is one. It is in
the life and doctrine of Jesus Christ that this profound instinct of
human nature finds itself exalted into one of the grandest truths of
religion, and invested with the peculiar sanction of heaven. In him,
the conception of this universal brotherhood, which nature teaches-
and all knowledge fortifies becomes a precious, living truth.
  The reality ot immense diversities in the condition, development,
character, and destiny of different portions of our race, must be ac-
cepted as a truth, even more obvious than its unity. Those diversi-
ties seem to extend to every thing that is consistent with the idea of
that unity. Nothing but that impassable barrier, is proof against the
force and variety of their manifestations. They have had their origin
at a very early period of the existence of the race. The most power-
ful causes, physical, social, and moral, have conspired to produce and
to perpetuate them. We cannot hesitate to pronounce these causes,
in many respects constant, and their effects established. And these
effects become causes themselves, of many subsequent events in the
fate of nations, and produce consequences the most momentous and
enduring. It is easy to comprehend that a race originally one, must
have passed through circumstances very different as to different por-
tions of it, and that these circumstances, whatever they may have
been, must have operated with a constant and immense force, to pro-
duce such differences in their physical and moral condition as we find
exhibited all over the earth. And it is not more difficult to perceive,
that these differences, when established, become the fruitful source of


other, and, if possible, still more important consequences. It is not,
perhaps, so obvious, yet it is not less true, that all these diversities
would, under similar circumstances, be reproduced, even if we could
now obliterate them all; and that, therefore, the only part of wisdom
is to accept them as they are, and make all our efforts to ameliorate
the condition of the human race proceed on this unquestionable truth.
We need not doubt that in the course of human progress, and under
the divine administration of a gracious providence, all these things
will turn to the furtherance of what is good; and that in the grand
consummation of all that progress and all that providence, every por-
tion of our race will be assigned to that portion of our earth, and led
to that destiny, which are the best and the highest for it. It is thus
that the diversity, as well as the unity of the race, becomes a most
fruitful truth; and the efforts of the most advanced portion of it, for
the benefit of the most sunken-America for Africa-precisely in the
mode which recognizes at once, that we are one, and yet that we are
different-is the true and the complete solution of the vast problem,
and of our duty under it. It remains for us to do that duty, in all
its fullness.
  The course which has been run by those great classes of our race
into which the learned, with more or less accuracy, have divided it,
and the achievements and the fate of nations, composed of one or
other of them, may be considered the inevitable result and exponent
of those peculiar circumstances which took them, one after another,
out of the great common brotherhood, and made them what they were.
The strong, the active, and the sagacious-the brave, the earnest, and
the wise-whatever made them thus-were thus made as the condi-
tion of their triumph; and being thus made, their triumph over the
timid, the weak, and the ignorant-whatever made them timid, weak,
and ignorant-was just as sure, from the beginning, as it is this day.
In the struggle of nations-without the marvelous and unusual in-
terpositions of God-the race is to the swift, and the battle is to the
strong. And that all the more certainly in a state of being, where
God's curse is upon man, and upon the earth, and upon all its pro-
ducts; and the sweat of the brow and the sweat of the brains are the
only remedies in a case where the principle of population is boundless
in its power, and the production of bread lies in comparatively nar-
row limits. Then follows the process of fructifying the earth with
human blood. The end of that is, confusion and sorrow, ruin and
despair-the shadow of death-and the sum of all, endless slavery!
   National independence, viewed from the summit on which we stand,
may strike the beholder as a thing easily won and kept. The nations
have found it much otherwise. Far the larger part of the history of
mankind is a record of the subjugation of races and states, success


ively, by each other. And probably the independence which we prize
so highly could not be maintained for a single day, if the tyrants of
the earth were able to subvert it. It is good for us to bear in mind
-and it may quell many an evil passion-that the abiding condition
of our national independence is, to maintain a strength equal to that
of all our enemies united. So, too, from the lofty eminence on which
we are placed, personal freedom may appear to us the simplest and the
surest result of every proper social organization. The human race
has not found it so. It has desired to be free-it has deserved to be
free-it has struggled to be free; nay, to be free has been the object
of its most fixed desire, of its highest desert, of its fiercest struggles.
But yet it has not been free. To preserve a perfect equality of rights,
and to preserve those rights perfectly-which are the two conditions
of civil liberty-and at the same time to recognize and maintain that
inequality of condition, which is the inevitable result of the progress
which liberty itself begets-this is the grand problem which the na-
tions, after so many ages, have not yet solved, and, therefore, are not
yet free. To preserve our national independence-to secure our per-
sonal liberty-to advance in the career of civilization-this is what
we are doing. But we should bear in mind, how many have tried and
how few have succeeded in the same career; how long, how peculiar,
and how fortunate was our previous training, both personal and na-
tional, for these great attempts; and how serious are the dangers which
still threaten us.
   Not a few of these dangers connect themselves with that black race
about which this society concerns itself, in a qualified manner-for a
portion of which it is endeavoring to establish a national and a free ex-
istence on another continent; the servitude of another portion of
which, in our own country, makes so conspicuous an element of our
social state; and the degraded condition of the third, and larger por-
tion of which, scattered over immense portions of the earth's service
-either in slavery or in the first stages of social existence-presents
such a deplorable feature of our common humanity. An immense
race, embracing an eighth part of the human family-a race doomed,
through far the greater part of recorded time, to general degradation and
personal servitude; long outcast from the family of man and from the
great common brotherhood. Now in this grand era of the world, its
destiny is bound fast to ours, and, in some sense, is to be solved with
it. The feeble parasite has found, at last, a clift of adamant, to which
it may cling. Can the Anglo-American bear through in triumph, not
his own destiny only, but that of the black race also It is a notable
question, and a notable conjunction of many acts of God and man has
brought it about.
   The topics, into the bosom of which the preceding deduction has


fairly brought us, are far too great and numerous to be treated fully
on an occasion like this. I shall, therefore, content myself with no-
ticing, generally, such only as are of special interest at the present
moment, and as bear more or less directly on the designs of this so-
ciety. I have to regret that exact statements on those points, touch-
ing which statistical facts are of great value, are at present impossible,
in consequence of the returns of the national census taken during the
past year, not having been, as yet, digested and published. It is of
necessity, therefore, that the principles discussed, and the facts involv-
ed, must be stated, generally; though I am sensible that this must
detract from any value these remarks might be supposed to possess.
   The negro race was brought to this continent at a period almost as
early as the white, and continued to be brought here, legally, for a pe-
riod of nearly two hundred years, and clandestinely for some years af-
ter their importation was prohibited. At the adoption of the decla-
ration of American independence all the thirteen colonies tolerated
negro slavery. At that era, the African slave-trade was in full ope-
ration, and no civilized nation condemned it, while most of them par-
ticipated in it. Of the thirteen states which formed the old confede-
racy, and all of which tolerated slavery, six continue to tolerate it,
and seven have abolished it. Of the eighteen states admitted into
the union since the adoption of the federal constitution, nine are free
states and nine are slave states. Of the present thirty-one states
composing the union, fifteen are slave states and sixteen are free states.
Of the seven original states which abolished slavery, each one did it
of its own accord, and by its own act. Of the nine fiee and nine slave
states admitted into the union, each one was so admitted by act of
congress, composed of senators and representatives elected from all
the states in the union, at the respective periods of their admission.
In the mean time, the foreign slave-trade was abolished by act of con-
gress, above forty years ago, and as soon as the federal constitution
permitted it to be done. During this period of seventy-five years,
counting from 1776, almost the entire class of free blacks in the Uni-
  ted Statas has come into existence, having been created by voluntary
  manumission, in the slave states, and by general manumission, by pub-
  lic authority, in those states that abolished slavery. It is probable
  that the greater portion were set free voluntarily in those states which
  still tolerate slavery, as considerably the larger portion of the free ne-
  groes in the United States have always resided in those states. The
  entire colored population of the United States may be estimated at
  about one-tenth part of the absolute population-the free portion of
  the negro population at about one-fifth part of that race, and about
  one-fiftieth part of the whole population. It is probable that above
  three-fifths of the entire population of the nation live in the free stated,


and the remaining two-fifths, or somewhat less, in the slave states;
and that the slaves constitute not far from one-fourth part of the en-
tire population of the slave states. I repeat that these estimates,
made in advance of the returns of the census of 1850, may not prove
exact, though probably not far wrong. A remaining fact of great sig-
nificance, belonging to the period I am running over, is the attempt,
by means of African colonization, to plant the germ of a real nation-
ality in the bosom of this black race an attempt now persisted in
with great tenacity, and much success for above thirty years.
  This comprehensive statement exhibits the position of this great
question of the black race, as it touches our American dispensation, at
two eras, seventy-five years apart, and also the movement of it during
that long period. It leaves no doubt of the reality, and the tendency
of an immense progress highly favorable to that race yet faithful to
the high destiny of the country itself-and to the public obligations,
in the faithful observance of which, that glorious destiny is involved.
The slave states have permitted their citizens to manumit many thou-
sands of slaves; and in this manner many millions of dollars have been
given up by masters, through motives of humanity alone. Seven
states which once tolerated slavery have abolished it, by the unques-
tionable exercise of their sovereign power. Congress has admitted
into the union more states than originally composed it, leaving to each,
at and after its admission, to tolerate slavery or reject it, at its plea-
sure; and an equal number has done each. With a common consent
of the nation, the foreign slave-trade has been prohibited, and punish-
ed as a crime against the human race. To crown the whole, a sponta-
neous movement, as entirely national as any that has marked our ca-
reer, has manifested and established itselg seeking the removal of the
free blacks of America, with their own consent, to Africa, and their
settlement there in freedom and independence. And multitudes of
slaves, whom their masters do not consider it advisable to emancipate
in this country, are held subject to be sent to Liberia, as the means
can, from time to time, be obtained for that purpose. These facts,
taken all together, and considering their relative dependence-the im-
mense field they cover-the long period through which they have
been developed, and their connection with other and immense interests,
may be fairly said to establish the existence of a general sentiment, at
once moderate in its aims and powerful in its impulse. There are, no
doubt, those who demand a different and far more vehement progress
-as there are, also, those who assert that a point has been reached al-
ready dangerous to the interests of the slave states; and recent events
have given to both of these extreme opinions an importance, all the
more ominous, as their advocates, who could agree in nothing else,
have agreed in a common assault, under cover of them, upon the


union, and the constitution of the country. We may not, therefore,
pass them by in silence.
  For myself, I am not only ready to admit, but I earnestly contend,
that no question touching the black race in this country, should be al-
lowed for a moment to compromise the far higher and more important
interests of the white race in it, and of the country itself. I desire
the prosperity of every nation in the world; but, above all, I passion-
ately desire the glory of my own. I earnestly invoke God's blessing
upon every race of men; but, above them all, I cherish with devotion
and with hope, the advancement of my own. I love liberty, and re-
joice greatly when the down-trodden recover it, and mourn when its
struggles, any where, are defeated. But the liberties of my own race,
and my own country, are precious to me out of comparison with all be-
side. I have never ceased to compassionate this black race, and to
labor, in every way that seemed to me proper, for its ultimate re-
demption; and perhaps the greatest sacrifices of my life have been in
Its cause. But I frankly admit, that there is no conceivable question
in which that race, or any race is involved, for which I would peril, in
the slightest degree, the sublime career which is open before my coun-
try-much less provoke or tolerate an assault upon the integrity of
the constitution, or the perpetuity of the union. Never were such
hopes set before any people-never was such a destiny offered to any
nation, as God has placed within our reach. The contempt of our
posterity, the execration of mankind, the abhorrence of endless gen-
erations, would inadequately avenge the folly, the disloyalty, and the
impiety which could lead us to make shipwreck of such a dispensation.
We must not do it-nay, we must not allow it to be done. The na-
tion must be just to every part that composes it. It must forbear to
the last extremity-even when it is right, and the rebellious parts are
wrong. We are brothers-we are christians-and we are free. But
the highest duty the nation has to perform, is to avert national ruin.
Our glorious institutions have been steeped, from the beginning, in
the blood of patriots. Dreadful as the alternative would be, better
steep them also in the blood of traitors, than let them perish in utter
   So far from exasperating these frantic strifes, the friends of African
colonization have a peculiar interest in composing them. They know
it is not for them to hasten the designs of God; and they are content
to await the guidance of his adorable wisdom. They know, too, that
all the madness of men cannot frustrate the settled ends of Provi-
dence, nor avert those great conclusions whose seeds lie buried in past
ages, and whose catastrophe is as inevitable as the stroke of death.
They have no interest in exasperating one portion of the country
against another, or the strong against the feeble race. It is the gen-


tie and the generous-not the fierce and turbulent emotions of the
human soul-to which their appeal lies. It is to solve great and dif-
ficult questions, for the common good and the common glory, and, if
it were possible, with the common consentquestions which, not they,
but time, and progress, and the inherent force of events have made,
that their great mission addresses its healing labors. If the fair de-
fense of their grand and single aim begets discussions on other points,
the fault is not theirs, but of those who, upon grounds hostile to each
other, and all independent of the precise end they have in view, would
obstruct their great, benificent, and patriotic purpose. The exclusive
subjects of their labors are the free black race in the United States.
Their sole design as to them, is to create out of them a free, civilized,
and Christian commonwealth in Africa. To prevent their success, the
north is roused upon the plea, that by this means slavery will be more
permanently established in America; and, the south is convulsed upon
the pretext, that by the same means slavery is endangered. And so,
opposing parties, forgetting their mutual hostility, jointly attack prin-
ciples which protect both, and a cause which would bless both, in the
same spirit in which they attack the county which cherishes both.
  The effect of African colonization upon negro slavery in the United
States, is an aspect of the question which could hardly be overlooked.
I have just stated that extreme and directly opposite conclusions
have been arrived at. It can hardly be fairly denied that the interests,
both of the slaves and their masters, as well as the general interests
of the country, would be promoted by the removal of an anomalous
and unfortunate class occupying the position generally presented by
the free blacks throughout America. Nor can it be questioned that
many motives growing out of any clear view of the subject, are pre-
sented to the benevolent owners of slaves, favoring emancipation con-
nected with colonization. That there is any serious probability, how-
ever, that the number of slaves in this country will ever be consider-
ably reduced, by means of foreign colonization, or upon such motives
alone as arise from that quarter, is not, I presume, believed by many
well informed persons. I have never entertained the opinion that
slaverr, as an institution, could be shaken by any considerations ex-
cept those great and absorbing ones which control the human con-
science, or dictate with the power of irresistable necessity to the hu-
man will. The sense of self-preservation may do it-a clear view of
personal interest may do it-a profound idea of duty may do it-the
abiding force of religious principle or religious emotion may do it.
All these suggestions contemplate its voluntary abolition, by the act
of the master, or of the state. There are other modes, fiercer and
more effectual-foreign conquest, domestic strife-the combined ques-
tions of bread, labor, and population, practically diqcused under tho


usual auspices of famine and pestilence. All these are methods the
world has seen often enough to know by rote; and if this union is
dissolved, there are those now alive who may see one or other of them
enacted over again. God forefend, both that calamity and its cause.
So it is-slavery is here-for good, as someprofess-for ill, as most be-
lieve. For good or ill, it is here beyond the power of foreign colonization
to shake its existence, or materially diminish its numbers. The parasite
has clung to the wall of adamant-the African is bound to the car of
the Anglo-American! He must bear him through in triumph-he
must perish with him by the way-or he must destroy him outright.
That car cannot pause to re-adjust this doomed connection, any more
than the adamantine spheres can cease to wheel, unshaken, in the
hand of God, that the planets may adjust their casual perturbations.
Bear him through in triumph-perish with him by the way-or de-
stroy him outright! The good, the brave, and the wise, alone are
worthy to ask or to answer-which When idle chatterers are done,
let them take up the great parable-and when they make their expo-
sition, let them settle in the depths of every constant and intrepid
heart-that if the south will be true to the country, the country wil
be true to her; that if the north will be true to the country, the coun-
try will be true to her; and if the country will be true to her destiny,
God wll be true to her!
   Surmounting such questions, our cause extricates itself from di-
lemmas which belong rather to the country than to it, and which, at
the most, involve only one, and that an incidental portion of its
ground. Its direct connection with slavery in America, if it has any
at all, lies chiefly in this-that the particular objects of its care-the
free negroes of America-are each one a proof that slavery in Amer-
ica is in a process of amelioration; and that it affords the means to
such as choose to use them in that manner, of a further and real-
though possibly slight and incidental-yet if men so please, illimita-
ble amelioration. The mass of slaves in America-considerable in
itself, but insignificant when compared with the whole black race-
stands back in the rear. If they were forgotten in our estimates, it
would rob this cause only of one feature of its grandeur; a feature, I
admit, momentous to us as American philanthropists and patriots.
There are other, and perhaps to all but ourselves, far more impressive
features. Here around us, are more than half a million of liberated
slaves. Yonder, in the great world without, are a hundred, possibly a
hundred and fifty millions of blacks. There before us, is the vast Af-
rican continent, the original home, and still the seat and centre of the
race. Here is our sublime design, to organize a real and enduring na-
tionality, in the bosom of this race, in its original seats. High above
all, is the cross of Christ--and profusely rich through all, are the


hopes of established freedom, where there was bondage before, and ex-
alted civilization where barbarism had reigned.
  There is, perhaps, no instance in the history of society, of so small
and so unimportant a portion-as the free negroes have always been
of the population of the United States-occupying so large a share of
the public attention. They have, probably, never exceeded the fiftieth
part of the entire population of the nation. As a political element,
they have never been worthy to be considered. As affecting, in any
way, the national wealth, power, or development, their weight is inap-
preciable; and their increase, by natural propagation, has borne a very
low proportion to that of any other class or portion of the people.
Yet the attention of the benevolent and humane has been long and
earnestly directed to them; legislative enactments so numerous and
peculiar as to form a distinct code, have been made about them in
most, if not all, the states; political and religious parties have made
various and opposite principles, relating to them, fundamental points
in their very organization; the most violent popular agitations and
excesses have been produced in nearly every part of the country, by
discussions and proceedings connected with them; and an earnest pub-
lic sentiment, covering a long track of years, and directed to various
objects, has manifested itself in numerous voluntary organizations
concerning them, most of which have professed to be, and some of
which have been, really national. It is obvious, that to explain such
a condition of affairs, there must exist something extremely peculiar,
in the position of such a class, and its relations to others around it.
During more than thirty years the public mind has been earnestly di-
rected to this subject; and surely