Equally strange was it that the Colonization Society, if really friendly to the negro, should find its most zealous supporters among slaveholders. Its first president, who was a nephew of George Washington, upon learning that his slaves had got the idea that they were to be set at liberty, sent over fifty of them to be sold from the auction block at New Orleans. That was intended as a warning to the rest. One of its presidents was said to be the owner of a thousand slaves and had never manumitted one of them. The principal service that the colonization movement was expected to do for the slave-owners was to relieve them of the presence of free negroes. These were always regarded as a menace by slave-masters. They disseminated ideas of freedom and manhood among their unfortunate brethren. They were object-lessons to those in bondage. The slave-owners were only too glad to have them sent away. They looked to Liberia as a safety-valve. It did not take long for intelligent people who were really well-wishers of the black man to perceive these facts.
The severest blow that the Colonization Society received in America was from the pen of William Lloyd Garrison, who, under the title of Thoughts on African Colonisation, published a pamphlet that had wide distribution. It completely unmasked the pretended friendship of the Colonizationists for the negroes, free or slave. From that time they lost all support from real Anti-Slavery people. There was, however, to be a battle fought, in which the Colonization Society figured as a party, that furnished one of the most interesting episodes of the slavery conflict.
England, at the time of which we are speaking, was full of Anti-Slavery sentiment. Slavery, at the end of a long and bitter contest, had been abolished in all her colonies. Her philanthropists were rejoicing in their victory. The managers of the Colonization Society resolved, if possible, to capture that sentiment, and with it the pecuniary aid the British Abolitionists might render. It was always a tremendous beggar. They, accordingly, selected a fluent-tongued agent and sent him to England to advocate their cause. He did not hesitate to represent that the Colonization Society was the especial friend of the negro, working for his deliverance from bondage, and, in addition, that it had the support of “the wealth, the respectability, and the piety of the American people.”
When these facts came to the knowledge of the members of the newly formed New England Anti-Slavery Society, they were naturally excited, and resolved to meet the enemy in this new field of operations. This they decided to do by sending a representative to England, who would be able to meet the colonization agent in discussion, and otherwise proclaim and champion their particular views. For this service the man selected was William Lloyd Garrison, who was then but twenty-eight years old.