Christian Recorder: December 14, 1861
In one of his earliest mentions of emigration, Turner, while not endorsing it, at least argues that African Americans should hear arguments for emigration.
Keywords: Emigration, Haiti, Liberia,
Mr. Editor:-I noticed, in the 49th issue of the Recorder, a very interesting article from the Rev. T. (Thomas) Strother, relative to Haitian emigration, in which he frames several objections to the entire system, giving, of course, his several reasons; and some of those reasons appear to be the result of a proper conception of the scheme; and are, therefore, well deserving such consideration as a sense of its author’s ability might impose. And so far as that institution is concerned, I have no objections to urge, for I know but little about it at best; and, from the fact that I am neither familiar nor interested in the scheme, I am willing to side with the Rev. Strother, and pronounce it, so far as I know, utterly useless. But the Rev. gentlemen, by way of fanning his fulminations, denominates it as the full second cousin of the Liberian colonization scheme, to which he has held an aversion from its infancy. Thus computing, if not incorrectly understood, the Liberian scheme to be three degrees worse than the Haitian traffic.
Now, it is not my intention to make an attack upon my distinguished brother, nor to call out a newspaper controversy, for I am personally acquainted with him, and am satisfied that he reasons from conscientious promptings; and, further, I would not meet so learned an opponent in the literary field, if he, or anyone else, would pay me. But I only wish to beg leave to differ in relation to the censures he vents against the colonization scheme. I am aware he has the popular side of the question – yes, twenty to one of the opposite. But, then, do popularities make realities? Are not many things famous that are really infamous? Assertions are made facts by their tests of the application of rationalistic truths. This is not the only time, by far, that I have heard Liberia and the colonization scheme set down as virtue less, and liberty denounced, with, I thought, no justifiable reasons. I have not always been free from these prejudices neither, but I have not been quite so deeply steeped in them as some others.
I find the greatest objection that has been waged against the colonization scheme, has emanated from the desire of the white man to get us to go there, and we are so prone to regard him as our enemy, that we have become something like the Reformers of the Christian Church, who held such an abhorrence to the Roman Catholics, that, in separating themselves from Catholicism, they tried to get so far off, that they threw away some of the most important functions of the Church. Our likes or dislikes for anything, should result from a previous investigation.
I have no arguments to offer in vindication of the purity of the intention of many who are and have been the stern advocates of African colonization; but I care not what their intentions are, since I and mine are the ones benefited. God has often made use of the devil and his instrumentalities, to work out for his people ineffable blessings. Many poor oppressed slaves have obtained their freedom during the last forty years, who would have died in the ignominious chains of slavery, but for the interventional influences of the colonization scheme. And freedom to me is preferable to slavery, though it be achieved at the risk of hell itself.
I do not think it necessary to treat upon the unadaptedness (sic) of the climate to our health and comfort; for such objections are made frivolous from the fact that new countries and untilled regions are subject to a state of unhealthiness. Let anyone read the history of the United States, and they will find that thousands and thousands of noble hearted emigrants, in search of the great boon of liberty, fell victims to plague and disease, and became the prey of wild beasts, or the object upon which the savage Indian dealt his death blows. When I read of the ship loads of those who perished, of the vast number who froze to death, and the almost unheard of suffering they had to endure, it puzzles me even to try to imagine why they did not recant and give the struggle over. Besides, it was seventy years, from the commencement of their emigration, until they established anything like a colonial system. And Liberia is not fifty years old, yet she has her banner flaunting in the heavens, her president and cabinet, her navy and forts, courts of justice and halls of jurisprudence, churches, schools, colleges, her internal resources of improvement, and is recognized by the iron power of Europe.
But we claim to be native Americans, and so we are, and we have no right to emigrate, that is true. America is as much my native home as it is that of President Lincoln. Reason and science both give the lie to the Dred Scott decision. So were the pilgrims of Plymouth natives of their birth places; but when the hand of oppression bore down upon them, nativity dwindled into insignificance when compared with liberty. And those who have gone to Liberia have been prompted by nobler motives than the claims of nativity presented. They went in search of freedom and independence; or else patriotism was the solicitation, charm, and buoyancy, which impelled them to brave contending elements, and the discouragements that have been the besetment of every effort.
The foundation stone of Liberia’s edifice may have been laid in prejudice, and mortared with unholy design, but the eye of the spectator, in less than a century hence, will be caught and held by the radiating glories that shall gleam forth from its superstructure, and the mean baseness of its founders will be forgotten. My impression is that the existence of Liberia had done more to abolitionize (sic) the North than all the other means put together. And even now she is referred to not unfrequently, as a proof that the black man is capable of self-government and it is not improbable, should any legal enactments be effected for the improvement of our condition, that it will be greatly attributable to Liberia. And should the present administration recognize her independence, it will be an open and worldwide declaration of the colored man’s rights and titles everywhere.
But then it is said the whites wish to get rid of us. Let them wish, and help them wish. I wish, with my whole body and soul, they were; and I expect most of the colored people south of Mason and Dixon’s line wish to get rid of them a thousand times more than the whites do.
It is urged again that the whites desire to shift us from their entertained fears of amalgamation; but I think that is the very thing we ought to fear. Instead of them fearing we will marry their daughters and sisters, we should fear and tremble for our daughters and sisters, for we have a thousand specimens of the latter to one of the former; and I set as high an estimate upon the ladies of my own species as any other race can upon theirs. Indeed, I think a great many of our objections are founded upon the very principles we should embrace. And I think, also, that the subject of human equality is pressed to a groundless extent. Everybody knows we are people, and though some may try to deny it, yet the very instincts of their own nature contradict them; they are like a sect of egotistical philosophers who taught that nothing existed besides themselves, yet, whenever they saw danger coming, they would run, thus giving the lie to their own theory. So with those who deny our humanity: when they meet us, they talk with us, inquire of us, and do by us, as people, contradicting their own assertions, so I have concluded they are crazy, and there is no law for fools.
H. M. Turner
Baltimore, Dec. 3, 1861