Item #7536 The Second Annual Report of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States.
The Second Annual Report of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States.
The Second Annual Report of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States.
The Second Annual Report of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States.
The Second Annual Report of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States.

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The Second Annual Report of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States.

Washington: Davis and Force, 1819. 8vo (9” x 5.5”), full mottled calf, recently rebacked to style with gilt rules and black lettering pieces, early covers with gilt borders, a.e.g., early marbled endpapers. 131 pp. Early ink ownership inscriptions on verso of ffep and facing page: “A. Randall”; “Harperian Library. Presented by Dr. Ayres Decr. 1823. No 30. E Ayres.” CONDITION: Good, wear to lower corners, rubbed, some small losses to gilt border; dampstain affecting upper left corner of first twelve leaves, a few creases, occasional foxing and light soiling to contents.

Scarce first edition of the American Colonization Society’s Second Annual Report, detailing the results of a recent reconnaissance trip to West Africa.

The focus of this report by the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour, also known as the American Colonization Society (ACS) is the “recent mission to Africa,” undertaken by Rev. Samuel John Mills and Ebenezer Burgess. News from the mission “leaves no further room to doubt that a suitable territory, on the coast of that continent, may be obtained” for the purpose of re-colonizing the United States’s Black population. The report’s introduction, which doubles as a narrative outline of the various sections of the Appendix, confirms “the readiness of many of the free people of colour”—many of whom are “the most enlightened of this class of persons”—“to avail themselves of their contemplated asylum” and of “several proprietors…to emancipate a whole, or a part, of their slaves, whenever a suitable abode in Africa shall have been provided for them, upon condition that they shall repair to it.” Refuting claims that the Society aims “to proclaim universal emancipation,” the report stresses its conviction that “the colonization of the free people of colour, will render the slave who remains in America more obedient, more faithful, more honest, and, consequently, more useful to his master.” Unsurprisingly, the ACS’s originally rather diverse membership waned over the years, as many abolitionists and people of color “began to question the intent of the ACS, claiming its true intent was to drain off the most educated of the free black population which often challenged slavery and thus preserve the institution” (Brenton).

The first and most substantial portion of the report’s appendix comprises selections from Mills’s journal describing his trip to Sierra Leone. Mills concludes: “I am every day more convinced of the practicability and expediency of establishing American colonies on this coast.” His prognostications were of course not quite correct: after Navy Lieutenant Robert Stockton “persuaded African King Peter to sell Cape Montserado (or Mesurado) by pointing a pistol at his head” in 1821 (LOC), the colony was continually attacked by the region’s original inhabitants, and in 1848, never having been claimed as a colony by the United States, declared independence in order to better secure its territorial and commercial sovereignty.

Other sections of the appendix include a letter from the President of the African Institution to Bushrod Washington; a “Sketch of Sierra Leone” along with extracts from the Sierra Leone Gazette and statistical tables of the colony’s exports and “Captured Negroes”; U.S. national and state governmental reports; numerous legal and correspondence extracts regarding the slave trade, etc. The volume closes with a letter from the ACS to the House of Representatives suggesting that the entire movement is now “Reduced to the single question” of whether the colony will be slowly, precariously, and laboriously financed by the society’s fundraising efforts or “whether the undertaking shall be adopted and patronized by the Government, so as to become essentially national in its means and its objects.”

At the time of this early report’s publication, especially prominent members of the society included Henry Clay, Frances Scott Key, Andrew Jackson, and its president Bushrod Washington, nephew of George Washington. Throughout the mid-1800s it settled “some 10,000 black Americans, along with several thousand Africans from interdicted slave ships” in Liberia (Britannica). Despite never inspiring the rush of Liberian colonization it hoped for, the ACS remained active—except for a hiatus during the Civil War—and engaged with education and missionary work until it dissolved in 1964.

REFERENCES: Sabin 81842; Shaw & Shoemaker 46981; “The African-American Mosaic,” Library of Congress online; “American Colonization Society,” Britannica online; Brenton, Felix. “The American Colonization Society (1816-1964),” Black Past online.

Item #7536

Price: $3,750.00

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