Colonization: Reverend Nathan Bangs, Sermon (excerpts), 1827

 

          During the 1820s, the American Colonization Society (ACS) had become popular in many northern and southern states, including Virginia. The Society pressed for the gradual emancipation of slaves and their removal to Africa.

 

          Some slaveholders supported the ACS as a means of ridding the United States of free blacks, or of people of African descent altogether. Some reformers championed colonization as a way of bringing an end to slavery and providing opportunity for black people to thrive in their own society, unhindered by white racism.

 

          Some black Americans also approved of colonization and voluntarily migrated to Africa themselves after the Society had helped establish the colony of Liberia in 1822. Some 13,000 blacks from the United States migrated to Liberia by 1867.

 

          The following sermon was given by Reverent Nathan Bangs of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City on July 4, 1827, and was printed in the official journal of the ACS, the African Repository and Colonial Journal.

 

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The African Repository and Colonial Journal, Vol. III, 1827, pp. 180

 

Sermon by the Rev. Nathan Bangs, D.D.

 

                  Now the objects of this society, for the promotion of which we are convened on this occasion, are these—They design to take such free Africans as are willing to go, and transport them to Africa, to provide provision and houses for them, until they are able to take care of themselves, as also to furnish them with the ministry of God’s word, and the ordinances of the house of God; and for myself, I wish them success with all my heart.

                  This project may be viewed by some with a jealous eye, but [p.181] it is now patronized largely. It has received the approbation of the states of Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Rhode Island, and other states; but this is not all, it has met with the approval of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and several individual Presbyteries. It is approved of highly by the Virginia, New York, and Baltimore Conferences of our own church; so far it has met with the favour of the political and religious part of the community.

 

                  Now the question is, shall we strive to promote these great objects? I think so; 1st, because we owe much to them. I will not accuse you of individually contributing the enslave them;--your souls abhor it. But you live in a country which has done much aforetime to make them slaves. Oh! it is enough to wring the heart, to glance at the horrors of those sufferings, which thousands of poor Africans endure. . . . who will write the history, the heart-sickening tale of husbands separated from their wives, of children torn from the bond embrace of their parents, and doomed to perpetual chains? Who will write the narrative of that miserable scene, where hundreds are cooped up in a narrow space in the accursed slave ship—the expression is not too strong—accursed slave ship, where the hands and feet are placed together in a stooping posture, thus to endure the tortures of famine until in despair they bite the flesh of their bodies, to satisfy their uncontrollable cravings? They cannot write, they have no means to do it, nor to circulate it when written. We will weep over the sufferings of our own countrymen, and it is right we should weep;--but if their story could be told, there is not heart but would feel the wound.

 

                  Not only on this account, but as Christian patriots are we called upon to be interested in this subject. Oh! we enjoy great privileges;--well, ought we not to labour to extend like privileges to them. . . . [p.182] this is like a candle scattering light abroad in a dark place!-it is a spiritual and moral light,--let it be elevated, and its beams will be diffused. If Mohammed has spread his banner over that desolated land—if under its withering influence votaries have multiplied, pray tell us if Christian patriots may not expect equal success.

 

                  These people are in a degraded state it is true;--but when I see the immense range contemplated in the sphere of the American Colonization Society, I think I behold in it a moral grandeur which indicates the Hand that made the heavens in its formation.

 

                  Thirdly and lastly, The spirit of religion should inspire us in this matter. Religion now forms a prominent feature in the operations of the Society. The present colonial Agent fears God, and is ardently engaged in the best interests of the Society, and is seconded in his efforts by many kindred spirits. But suppose it was not religious in its objects; what then? Why the duty is greater, the obligation increases for your perpetual prayers. As a larger field opens before our labourers, then surely we ought to extent to it our favour and patronage, to make it such as it ought to be. Life up then your prayers for God’s blessing upon it. . . .