American Colonization Society: An Exercise in Compromise
The American Colonization Society was founded in 1817 as a result of agreements reached during a meeting on December 21, 1816. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together the efforts of state legislatures and colonization societies to create a national group supporting the idea of relocating freed slaves to Africa. Given the diverse group who supported colonization for different reasons, the society was doomed to be an effort in compromise.
Formation of the American Colonization Society
The mandate set forth by the society was to send freed slaves to Africa instead of their emancipation into the United States. The Society was formed and led by representatives from three distinct groups of shareholders engaged in the support of colonization of freed, or emancipated slaves. The abolitionists in the group believed that African-Americans would be happier in Africa where it was believed they could live without fear of racial discrimination. Church leaders and devote Christians believed that African-Americans raised as slaves could aid in spreading the gospel and “civilizing” Africa. Finally, the third school of thought was that it would be better to deport former slaves rather than risk their activism at home and their potential threat to security (Library of Congress, 2010).
Conflict and Compromise
Initially, the motivation to hold the December 21 meeting was led by political leaders, including a Virginia Assemblyman–Charles Fenton Mercer, to curtail slave rebelliousness. To some of the leaders, including a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey–Robert Finley, morality and theological issues were at the forefront of ideals (Southard, 2009). While the politicians gained support from the paranoid former and about to be former, slave owners, religious leaders received support from their followers. This left the abolitionists, whose motivation was to end slavery, who by the 1830s were so frustrated with the Society as being nothing more than a scheme hatched by slaveholders, they organized protests against the society (Library of Congress, 2010).
As a compromise can be defined as something that combines qualities or elements of different things, the Society once created was certain to be an operation of compromise and rhetoric. It is clear that abolitionists who wished only to see slavery abolished and former slave owners who did not want their slaves emancipated into the local area where not motivated by the same reasons for supporting colonization.
Library of Congress (2010, July 23). The African-American Mosaic [Colonization]. Retrieved from: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam002.html
Southard, B. F. (2009).THE RHETORICAL ORIGINS OF THE AFRICAN COLONIZATION MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES.[Electronic version] Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/1903/9852