1831, October An anti-colonization meeting is called at the
Wesley A.M.E. Church at Third and Mulberry Streets, in the neighborhood
of Judystown. Pastor Jacob Richardson chairs the meeting and helped
guide the resolutions, which were published in The Liberator. At
this same meeting, George Chester was appointed Harrisburg agent for
Garrison's newspaper. 1
Wesley Union Church was
established in 1829 by a group of persons who withdrew from Harrisburg's
AME Society. The church they established affiliated with the AME and
by 1830 had 115 members, a quarter of Harrisburg's African American
community. When a meeting was called to oppose the aims of the
American Colonization Society, which was gaining popularity and
influence in Pennsylvania, much of Harrisburg's African American
community was represented.
Jacob Richardson had just
succeeded the Rev. David Stevens as the church pastor, and as the new
leader, he was chosen to chair the meeting and to sign the resolutions.
Jacob G. Williams, as the appointed secretary for the meeting, recorded
the resolutions and sent them to William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator,
which published them in its October 8, 1831 edition under the headline
"A Voice From Harrisburg." Significantly, it was at this meeting
that George Chester was appointed the Harrisburg agent for The
Liberator, probably because his restaurant was already a gathering
place for anti-slavery and anti-colonization people. This meeting
marks a key organizational point for the Underground Railroad in
A VOICE FROM HARRISBURG:
At a large, well informed and respectable meeting of the citizens of
Harrisburg, convened at the African Wesleyan Methodist Church, for the purpose
of expressing their sentiments in a remonstrance against the proceedings of
the American Colonization Society, Rev. Jacob D. Richardson was called to the
chair, and Jacob G. Williams appointed Secretary. After singing and prayer,
the Rev. Mr. Richardson, in some concise remarks,— equalled by few, and
exceeded by none,— expressed the object of the meeting. The Chairman called
the house to order, and the following resolutions were unanimously acceded to:
Resolved, That we hold these truths to be self-evident, (and it is the boasted
declaration of our independence,) that all men (black and white, poor and
rich) are born free and equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness. This is the language of America, of reason, and of eternal
Resolved, That we feel it to be our duty to be true to the constitution of our
country, and are satisfied with the form of government under which we now
live; and, moreover, that we are bound in duty and reason to protect it
against foreign invasion. We always have done so, and will do so still.
Resolved, Hence, that we view the efforts of the Colonization Society
officious and uncalled for by us. We have never done anything worthy of
banishment from our friends and home: but this we would say— if the
Colonization Society will use their best endeavors and get our slave brethren
transported to Liberia, when we as a free body of people wish to go, we will
give the Colonizationists timely notice.
Resolved, That it is the firm and decided opinion of this meeting, that were
there no free people of color among us, or if those who are free had remained
in the degraded character of slaves, (or, as they sometimes call us, monkeys,
apes, and baboons,) they would never have got up the chimerical scheme for our
transportation to the burning shores of Africa, with the fancied vision of
elevating us, as they say, to dignity and affluence.
Resolved, That we cannot remain inactive while Colonizationists are straining
every nerve and racking their inventions to find out arguments to persuade our
free colored brethren to migrate to an unknown land which we can no more lay
claim to than our white brethren can to England or any other foreign country.
Resolved, That we reject the inhuman and unchristian measures taken by the
Colonization Society, for the illumination of the colored citizens of the
United States, their appropriate home, in a land of sickness, affliction and
death, when they are not willing, with a few exceptions, to give us a
christian education while among them. We would wish to know of the
Colonizationists, how, in the name of common sense and reason, do they expect
to do any thing for us thousands of miles across the Atlantic, when they
oppose almost every measure taken by our white friends and brethren to improve
our condition here?
Resolved, That it is the united opinion of this meeting, that the enemies of
our race, who are members of the Colonization Society, see that the great
Author of universal existence, who 'is no respecter of persons,' who taught
Baalam's ass to speak, and taught Solomon wisdom, is now enlightening the
sable sons of America: hence their object to drain the country of the most
enlightened part of our colored brethren, so that they may be more able to
hold their slaves in bondage and ignorance.
Resolved, That we object leaving the land of our birth, as there is sufficient
land in these United States, on which a colony can be established that would
be far more consonant to the wishes of the colored population generally, and
would be more adapted to their constitution: neither would it involve the
country in such expense as would be incurred by sending them to a howling
wilderness, far away from the graves of their forefathers, unknown to us in
every respect, unless by geography, which few of us understand.
Resolved, That this meeting look upon the Colonization Society as a vicious,
nefarious and peace-disturbing combination, and that its leaders might as well
essay to cure a wound with an argument, or set a dislocated bone by a lecture
on logic, as to tell us their object is to better our condition; because its
members acknowledge slavery to be a national evil, and use no means to
annihilate it, but are exerting all their energies and influence to persuade
the free people of color to remove to Africa, whose rights to Columbia's happy
soil holds good with any other citizen in America.
Resolved, That we look upon the conduct of those Clergymen who have misled
their respective congregations with the preposterous idea of the necessity of
transporting the free people of color to Africa, as highly deserving the just
reprehension directed to the false priests and prophets by the true prophets
of the Most High; yet we gratefully acknowledge the respect we entertain for
those who have defended our cause— we mean our white friends.
Resolved, That this meeting appoint Mr. George Chester, of Harrisburg, as
agent for the Liberator, and will use our utmost endeavors to get subscribers
for the same.
Resolved, That we will support the Colony in Canada, the climate being healthy
and the rights of our brethren secured.
Resolved, That the gratitude of this meeting, which is so sensibly felt, be
fully expressed to the Editors of the Liberator and Genius of Universal
Emancipation, Messrs Garrison and Lundy, whose independence of mind and
correct views of the rights of man have led them so intrepidly to speak in
favor of our cause.
Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be signed by the Chairman and
Secretary, and sent to the Liberator for publication.
JACOB D. RICHARDSON, Chairman.
JACOB G. WILLIAMS, Secretary.