Garrison left England in what, metaphorically, might be described as “a blaze of glory.” Hundreds attended him when he went to embark on his homeward voyage, and he was followed by their cheers and benedictions. Wonderfully different was the treatment he received on his arrival in his own country. Not long afterwards he was dragged through Boston streets by a hempen rope about his body, and was assigned to a prison cell, as affording the most available protection from the mob.
Nevertheless, we have had some excellent people—not slave-owners—who, out of compassion for the black man, or from prejudice against his color, and, perhaps, from a little of both, have favored a policy of colonization in this country. Mr. Lincoln was one of them. “If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do with the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free the slaves and send them to Liberia.” So said Mr. Lincoln in one of his debates with Douglas.
“I cannot make it better known than it already is,” said Mr. Lincoln in a message to Congress, dated December 1, 1862, “that I strongly favor colonization.”
At Lincoln’s instance Congress appropriated several large sums of money—then much needed in warlike operations—for colonizing experiments. One of these has a curious and somewhat pathetic history. A sharper by the name of Koch, having worked himself into the confidence of the President and some other good people, got them to buy from him an island in the West Indies, called Ile a’Vache, which he represented to be a veritable earthly paradise. Strangely enough, it was wholly uninhabited, and therefore ready for the uses of a colony. Several hundred people—colored, of course—were collected, put aboard a ship, and dumped upon this unknown land. It will surprise no one to learn that pretty soon these people, poisoned by malaria, stung by venomous insects and reptiles, and having scarcely anything to eat, were dying like cattle with the murrain. In the end a ship was sent to bring back the survivors.
Nevertheless, the kind-hearted President did not give up the idea. At his request a delegation of Washington negroes called upon him. He made them quite a long speech, telling them that Congress had given him money with which to found a colony of colored people, and that he had found what seemed to be a suitable location in Central America. He appealed to them to supply the colonists. The negroes, not anxious for exile, diplomatically said they would think the matter over. In the end it was discovered that Central America did not want the negroes, and that the negroes did not want Central America.
A story that is curiously illustrative of Mr. Lincoln’s attachment to the policy of removing the colored people is told by L.E. Chittenden in his Recollections of President Lincoln. Mr. Chittenden was a citizen of Vermont and Register of the Treasury under Lincoln, with whom he was in intimate and confidential relations: