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JQA Diary, volume 31 29 April 1819
JQA Neal Millikan African Americans Anti-Slavery Movements Colonization Movements Emancipation Foreign Relations Native Americans Slave Rebellions Slave Trade Slavery

100 29. V: Mr S. A. Eliot, a son of Mr Samuel Eliot of Boston came yesterday and left a Letter of recommendation from Mr Quincy. I called this morning at his lodgings at Strother’s to see him, but he was gone out. At the Office I found Mr George Hay, who borrowed a parliamentary pamphlet containing papers relating to the Slave-trade, received with the last despatches from R. Rush. Hay said he had a great avidity for all papers concerning the project for abolishing the Slave-trade; a project which he believed would ultimately fail; which had already produced incomparably more mischief than good, and which he had no doubt would continue to be pernicious. For he had no doubt that the Insurrection in Saint Domingo, and the total destruction of the white powers there were the legitimate offspring of Mr Wilberforce’s first abolition plans, and our colonization Society here, whatever pretences they may put forth, and whatever some enthusiastic people among them might believe and intend, could have no other ultimate object than a general emancipation— I said that the Colonization Society were pushing their objects with so much zeal and importunity, that I very much wished their memorials might be taken up by Congress, and fairly discussed; for under the colour of colonizing black people, I was afraid they would smuggle in upon us a system of establishing Colonies beyond Sea, of the consequences of which the People of this Country were little aware; while in England, under the mask of abolishing the Slave trade, they were introducing, and had already obtained the consent of Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, a new principle of the Law of Nations more formidable to human liberty, than the Slave trade itself—A right of the Commanders of armed vessels of one Nation, to visit and search the merchant vessels of another in time of Peace. I observed that the Colonization Society had derived great strength from the part which the Virginia Legislature had taken in their favour— He said the Virginia Legislature had been tricked into that Resolution. That there was no such weak and absurd Reasoner in the world as humanity. It never looked but at one side of a question. That the resolution of the Virginia Legislature had been obtained by Mr Mercer; who was the father of the Colonization Society and of all their projects. That he himself had inconsiderately voted for it under the impulse of humanity; and three hours after, and ever since had bitterly repented his vote— The subject had afterwards been brought up again upon some correspondence between Mr Jefferson and Mr Monroe, which had been discussed in both Houses of the Legislature with closed doors. Afterwards the House had removed the injunction of secrecy; and the Correspondence to have been published, but Mercer lost the copies which had been before the house— And subsequent application was made to the Senate, for their copies, for publication— A motion that the copies might be given was made in the Senate; which he Hay had opposed—and he took the occasion to review the whole subject— When the vote was taken only two Members of the Senate voted for granting the copies, and now, if a vote of the Virginia Legislature could be taken, it would be any thing but in favour of the Colonization Society and its projects— Mr Jefferson he said had favoured them, because it was he who many years since had introduced and carried through the Law of the State, for partial emancipation of the Slaves; and after witnessing the pernicious consequences that had followed from it he was desirous of finding another remedy for it. But the friends of emancipation had a memorable example before them, of which it was surprizing that they would not avail themselves as an admonition— The Negro Slave-trade itself was the child of Humanity— The contrivance of Las Casas to mitigate the condition of the American Indians— Mr Hay’s opinions upon the Colonization Society, and its projects were unexpected to me— There are so many considerations of difficulty and of delicacy mingling with this subject, that I would gladly keep aloof from it altogether. But I apprehend the Society, which like all fanatical Associations is intolerant, will push, and intrigue, and worry, till I shall be obliged to take a stand, and appear publicly among their opponents. Their project of expurgating the United States, from the free people of Colour, at the public expence, by colonizing them in Africa, is so far as it is sincere and honest, upon a par with John Cleves Symmes’s project of going to the North Pole, and travelling within the Nut shell of the Earth— I finished the draught of General Instructions to J. Graham. Mrs Adams spent the Evening at her Sister Smith’s— Evening without fire in my cabinet.