Take Your Choice
Separation or Mongrelization

By Theodore G. Bilbo

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. -Patrick Henry
THE PLAN of physical separation of the white and black races as the proper solution to the race problem in the United States is not a new one. Early in the history of this country, Thomas Jefferson was the first man of great prominence to be identified with a repatriation movement. Jefferson, the father of the Democratic Party, was a statesman, philosopher, scholar, and writer, and he devoted much attention and study to the Negro problem. This great Virginian, who penned the immortal Declaration of Independence, announced time and time again that he did not believe both the white and Negro races could inhabit this country peacefully. The following quotations from Jefferson give evidence of his conclusion that the only possible solution to safeguard the future of this Nation was the complete separation of the races:

You have asked my opinion on the proposition of Mrs. Mifflin, to take measures for procuring, on the coast of Africa, an establishment to which the people of color of these States might, from time to time, be colonized, under the auspices of different governments. Having long ago made my mind up on this subject, I have no hesitation in saying that I always thought it the most desirable measure which could be adopted for gradually drawing off this part of our population most advantageously for themselves as well as for us. Going from a country possessing all the useful arts, they might be the means of transplanting them among the inhabitants of Africa, and would thus carry back to the country of their origin the seeds of civilization, which might render their sojournment and sufferings here a blessing in the end to that country. (From a letter written by Jefferson to John Lynch, under date of January 21, 1811, and found in Jefferson's Works, Volume 5, page 563.)

I concur entirely in your leading principles of gradual emancipation, of establishment on the coast of Africa, and the patronage of our Nation until the emigrants shall be able to protect themselves. The subordinate details might be easily arranged....Personally, I am ready and desirous to make any sacrifice which shall insure their gradual but complete retirement from the State and effectually, at the same time, establish them elsewhere in freedom and safety. But I have not perceived the growth of this disposition in the rising generation, of which I once had sanguine hopes. I leave it, therefore, to time, and not at all without hope that the day will come, equally desirable and welcome to us as to them. (From a letter written by Jefferson to Dr. Thomas Humphreys, under date of February 8, 1817, and found in Jefferson's Works, Volume 7, page 57.)

Nothing is more certainly written in the Book of Fate than that these people are to be free; nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion have drawn indelible lines of distinction between them. It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation and deportation peaceably and in such slow degree as that the evil will wear off insensibly, and their place, pari passu, filled up by free white laborers. (From Jefferson's Works, an autobiography written in 1821, Volume 1, page 48.)

Henry Clay also believed that the proper solution to the Negro problem was to be brought about by the deportation of the members of this race to another country. In a speech in the House of Representatives at an annual meeting of the American Colonization Society in January, 1827, he announced his support of the policy of physical separation of the races. The following excerpt is from this address:

Of the utility of a total separation of the two incongruous portions of our population (supposing it to be practicable) none have ever doubted. The mode of accomplishing that most desirable object has alone divided public opinion. Colonization in Hayti, for a time, had its partisians. Without throwing any impediments in the way of executing that scheme, the American Colonization Society has steadily adhered to its own. The Haytian project has passed away. Colonization beyond the Stony Mountains has sometimes been proposed; but it would be attended with an expense and difficulties far surpassing the African project, whilst it would not unite the same animating motives. There is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children whose ancestors have been torn from her by the ruthless hand of fraud and violence. Transplanted in a foreign land, they will carry back to their native soil the rich fruits of religion, civilization, law and liberty.

The third outstanding advocate of separation was Daniel Webster. In a speech on March 7, 1850, the famous Webster said:

In my observations upon slavery as it existed in this country, and as it now exists, I have expressed no opinion of the mode of its extinguishment or melioration. I will say, however, though I have nothing to propose, because I do not deem myself so competent as other gentlemen to take any lead on this subject, that if any gentleman from the South shall propose a scheme to be carried on by this government upon a large scale, for the transportation of the colored people to any colony or any place in the world, I should be quite disposed to incur almost any degree of expense to accomplish that object.

As President of the United States at a time when the country was facing disruption over the Negro question, Millard Fillmore made a thorough study of the problems involved. In preparing his annual message to Congress in December, 1852, he offered a history of the agitation for the emancipation of the Negro slaves and declared that freedom without colonization could only operate to create a worthless population to ruin the South, and could not be endured by the North. He wrote:

Thus having stated the evil, I am bound to offer my views of the remedy. This I do with unfeigned diffidence and with a most sincere declaration that I will cheerfully concur in any other constitutional mode of relief which Congress may see fit to adopt. But after the most anxious and mature consideration of this perplexing question in all its bearings, I confess that I see no remedy but by colonizing the free blacks, either in Africa or the West Indies, or both. This, it appears to me, is all Congress can do.... But this bare removal of the free blacks would be a blessing to them and would relieve the slave and free states from a wretched population, that must ever be kept in a state of degradation by the prejudice of color and race, whether they reside in the slave or free states. There can be no well grounded hope for the improvement of either their moral or social condition, until they are removed from a humiliating sense of inferiority in the presence of a superior race, and are enabled to feel the wholesome stimulus of a social equality.

It is true that this must be the work of many years, not to say centuries, for it can only progress as the slave-holding states, who are chiefly interested, shall find it for their advantage to encourage emancipation. It cannot be expected that a social evil like this, which has been accumulating for more than two hundred years, and is now intertwined with all the industrial pursuits of one half of the States of the Union, can be eradicated in a day. Its increase has been insensible, and its decrease should be so gradual as to create no shock. But it cannot be commenced too soon for the good of the country; for the rational philanthropist will see in its gradual accomplishment the only sure mode of relieving the country from this increasing evil without violence and bloodshed, and instead of joining in the fanaticism of abolition, he will patiently await its fulfillment; and the devout Christian, who has longed for the conversion of Africa, and mourned over its idolatry, and degradation, will see in these Christian slaves, emancipated and returned to their own country, the true missionaries of Africa, and recognize in this whole transaction the mysterious wisdom of an Allwise Being who by these means will bring benighted Africa to a knowledge of the Gospel.

Within a few years after President Fillmore's speech, part of which is quoted above, Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were engaged in their famous debates. Said Senator Douglas on August 21, 1858:

For one I am opposed to negro citizenship in any and every form. I believe this government was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever; and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men,- men of European birth and descent instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races.

The immortal Lincoln answered Senator Douglas with the following statement:

I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. (Speech at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858.)1

As President of the United States, Lincoln carried on his efforts to bring about the physical separation of the races which was his proposed solution to the Negro problem. He told a group of free Negroes gathered at the White House on August 14, 1862: "It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated." And in the famous Emancipation Prociamation, he again embodied his views on the race question by stating therein:

And that the effort to colonize persons of African descent with their consent upon this continent or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the governments existing there, will be continued.

Physical separation of the races was the solution of Abraham Lincoln, the great wartime President and Emancipator of the Negro race. He condemned the idea of the amalgamation of the white and Negro races; and throughout the many years of his public service, he used his efforts to bring about the removal of American Negroes to a country of their own.

Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee were in agreement on the advisability of the removal of the American Negro from this country. The beloved Southern General who led the Confederate Army made the following statement with reference to the Negro problem:

The only reason why I have allowed myself to own a slave for a moment is the insoluble problem of what to do with him when freed. The one excuse for slavery which the South can plead without fear before the Judgment bar of God is the blacker problem which their emancipation will create. We've played our parts, gentlemen, in a hopeless tragedy, pitiful, terrible. At least eighty thousand of our sons are dead or mangled. A million more will die of poverty and disease. Every issue could have been settled and better settled without the loss of a drop of blood. The slaves are freed by an accident. An accident of war's necessity - not on principle. The manner of their sudden emancipation, UNLESS THEY ARE REMOVED, will bring a calamity more appalling than the war itself. It must create a race problem destined to grow each day more threatening and insoluble....

At a time when General Robert E. Lee was entering his fateful Gettysburg campaign, one of the ablest men in the cabinet of President Lincoln, Montgomery Blair, of Missouri, made a speech at Concord, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1863. This experienced statesman, familiar with the Negro problem in all its aspects, made the following observations:

All the early patriots of the South - Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Clay, and others - were the advocates of emancipation and colonization. The patriots of the North concurred in the design. Is the faction now opposing it patriotic or philanthropic? Are they not rather, like Calhoun, working the negro question to accomplish schemes of selfish ambition, and, after his method, making a balance-of-power party of a phalanx of deluded fanatics, keeping the Union and the public peace perpetually in danger, and seeking power in the government through its distractions? The author of the Declaration of Independence and his associates declared EQUAL RIGHTS impracticable in society constituted of masses of different races. De Tocquevil]e, the most profound writer of the Old World on American institutions, predicts the extermination of the blacks, if it is attempted to confer such rights on them in the United States. It is obvious that an election would be a mockery in a community wherein there could be no other than BLACK and WHITE parties. In such communities, reason and experience show that one or the other race must be the dominant race, and that democracy is impossible.... They are not ambitious of ruling white men, and will, I believe, be contented to set up for themselves in some neighboring and congenial clime, on the plan of Jefferson and Lincoln.

Ulysses S. Grant, soldier-President, who most probably has been as highly praised and as severely criticized as any other statesman in American history, was another advocate of physical separation as the proper solution to the Negro problem. As President, Grant negotiated for the annexation of San Domingo and told the Senate that the purpose of his efforts was to afford a refuge for the black population of the South. In his memoirs he penned the following words of justification for his action:

The condition of the colored man within our borders may become a source of anxiety, to say the least .... It was looking to a settlement of this question that led me to urge the annexation of San Domingo during the time I was President of the United States. San Domingo was freely offered to us, not only by the administration but by all the people, almost without price. The island is upon our shores, is very fertile, and is capable of supporting fifteen million people. The products of the soil are so valuable that labor in her fields would be so compensated as to enable those who wished to go there to quickly repay the cost of their passage. I took it that the colored people would go there in great numbers, so as to have independent states governed by their own race. They would still be states of the Union, and under the protection of the general government, but the citizens would be almost wholly colored.

In the closing years of the nineteenth century, Senator John J. Ingalls, the illustrious statesman from Kansas, pleaded for the removal of the Negro to another country. In a speech which was reported by the Chicogo Tribune of May 28, 1893, he approved the physical separation of the races as the proper solution to the race problem. The following quotation is from this speech:

If this condition is the inevitable consequence of the contact of the two races, separation, voluntary or compulsory, at whatever cost, is the dictate of wisdom, morality, and national safety. If reconciliation upon the basis of justice and equal rights is impossible, then migration to Africa should be the policy of the future. To that fertile continent from whence they came they would return, not as aliens and strangers, but to the manner born. To their savage kindred who still swarm in its solitudes they would bring the alphabet, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bible. Emancipated from the traditions of bondage, from the habit of obedience and imitation, from the knowledge of its vices, which is the only instruction of a strong race to a weaker, the African might develop along his axis of growth and Ethiopia stretch out her hand to God.

The negro might not want to go. He is a native. He is a citizen. He has the right to stay. So he has the right to vote. He has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - he has been deprived of them all. Only the right of domicile remains. He could, perhaps, submit to the loss of this with the same resignation which has accompanied his surrender of the rest. There are vague indications of cleavage. In some regions the inertia is being overcome. Communities are pervaded by aimless agitations like those which preceded the flight of the Tartar tribe across the desert. The 'exodus' is an intimation of what may follow. The feasibility of this colonization of Africa, the cost and conditions of a migration so prodigious, its effect upon the civilization of the two continents and the destiny of the two races, are subjects too vast and momentous for consideration.

Another advocate of separation was John Temple Graves,2 outstanding Southerner and noted orator. In an address reported by the New York Times, September 4, 1903, Mr. Graves made the following eloquent plea for a permanent solution to the Negro problem:

Here, then the issues - Unity of the Republic, material development, purity of politics, political independence, respect for the ballot, reverence for the Constitution, the safety of our homes, the sanctity of our women, the supremacy of law, the sacredness of justice, and the unity of the Church.

There he stands, that helpless and unfortunate inferior. For his sake, the one difference has widened between the sections of our common country. Over his black body we have shed rivers of blood and treasure to emphasize our separate convictions of his destiny.

And yet, as the crimson tide rolls away into the years, we realize that all this blood and treasure and travail was spent in vain, and that the negro, whom a million Americans died to free, is, in present bond and future promise still a slave, whipped by circumstance, trodden under foot by iron and ineradicable prejudice; shut out forever from the opportunities which are the heritage of liberty, and, holding in his black hand the hollow parchment of his franchise as a freeman, looks through a slave's eyes at the impassable barriers which imprison him forever within the progress and achievement of a dominant and all-conquering race.

Separation of the races is the way - the only way....

For half a hundred years we have wrangled and fought and bled and died about this black man from Africa! Is the wrangle worth its fearful cost? Shall the great Northern section of our common country always turn its hand against the great Southern section of country? Shall the young American of the North steel his heart against the young American of the South over an alien's cause?

I appeal for Caucasian unity. I appeal for the imperial destiny of our mighty race. This is our country. We made it. We molded it. We control it, and we always will. We have done great things. We have mighty things yet to do. The negro is an accident - an unwilling, a blameless, but an unwholesome, unwelcome, helpless, unassimilable element in our civilization. He is not made for our times. He is not framed to share in the duty and the destiny which he perplexes and beclouds. Let us put him kindly and humanly out of the way. Let us give him a better chance than he has ever had in history, and let us have done with him.

When he was governor of Florida some thirty-five years ago, N. B. Broward looked forward to a permanent settlement of the race problem by the removal of American Negroes to a country of their own. He wisely proclaimed to the Florida Legislature that physical separation was the proper solution to this grave domestic issue. In a message to the Legislature, he said:

I deem it best and, therefore, recommend a resolution memorializing the Congress of the United States to purchase territory, either domestic or foreign, and provide means to purchase the property of the negroes at reasonable prices, and to transport the negroes to the territory purchased by the United States. The United States to organize a government for them of the negro race; to protect them from foreign invasion, to prevent white people from living among them in the territory; and to prevent negroes from migrating back to the United States. I believe this to be the only hope of a solution of the race problem between the white and black races, as I can see no ultimate good results that can accrue from the education of a race without planting in their being a hope of attaining the highest position in government affairs and society. In fact I can see no reason to expect that any man can be made happy by whetting his intelligence to that point where he can better contemplate or realize the hopeless gulf that must ever separate him and his race from the best things that the dominant race (who employ him as a servant) have in store for themselves. I believe that any person so situated would grow miserable, in proportion as he increased in intelligence. I believe that we should consider the fact that the negroes are the wards of the white people and that it is our duty to make whatever provision for them would be best for their well-being, and it is my opinion that the above recommendation that they be given a home of their own, where they can hope by living their proper lives, to occupy the higest places in it, thus educating and civilizing them, may tend toward their happiness and good. More especially do I make this recommendation for the good of the white race; to keep sweet the lives of the white people; to keep their consciences keen and clean. It is absolutely necessary to the civilization and Christianization of the world by them. Our children must be able to read the history of our lives and see: that it contains accounts of the best lives, and that their ancestors were the best people of the earth. Whatever tends to sour our natures, or that causes us to give way to passion or temper, tends to destroy us, and no cost should be considered in a matter so fraught with danger to the attainment of the civilization and Christianization of the world as will the attempt to compel these two races to live in the same territory.

To conclude these quotations from advocates of separation, the words of the colored Bishop, Henry M. Turner, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as the representative of the members of the Negro race who have supported repatriation, are most appropriate. After long years of study concerning the condition of his people, this colored religious leader became an ardent supporter of the program of emigration and colonization of the Negro race in a land of their own. In a letter to William P. Pickett,3 dated January 12, 1907, Bishop Turner said:

The plan will meet with the approval of all sober thinking people, and it will have the endorsement of the God of the Universe. The presence of the black man in this country is a curse to both races. It keeps the white man lying, stealing, misrepresenting, and the black man abusing, vilifying, and cursing, and neither white nor black can be Christian. I pray God you will continue in the great work in which you are engaged, and move this country to help the negro to emigrate to the land of his ancestors.

I know all about Africa. I have been from one end of it to the other. I have visited that continent as often as I have fingers upon my hand, and it is one of the richest continents under the heaven in natural resources. This country is not compared to it, and millions of colored people in this country want to go. But to pay our way to New York, then to Liverpool and then to Africa is too much for the little wages the white people pay to our workers. Give us a line of steamers from Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Pensacola, Florida; or New Orleans, Louisiana, and let us pay as much as the million or more white immigrants pay coming from Liverpool, London, and Hamburg to this country, and the negro will leave by thousands and tens of thousands, yes, by millions. And you white people will have peace and Christianity, and the black people will have peace, wealth, Christianity, and be a blessing to the world.

Throughout this Nation's history, outstanding leaders have supported a policy of physical separation of the white and black races. These were practical men; they were not dreamers or fanatics. They studied the race problems brought about by the presence of the millions of Negroes in the United States and foresaw the ultimate outcome if this race remained in our country. They did not believe in amalgamation and opposed policies and practices which would make this a nation of mongrels. They pleaded for a program of repatriation which would make America white and which would give to the Negroes unlimited opportunities for the development of their own culture. They understood the difficulties involved in adopting and carrying out the plan of racial separation, but they knew that it must be done in order to preserve white America.

Diseases desperate grown

By desperate appliance are relieved,

Or not at all. (Hamlet)

Americans have honored Jefferson and Lincoln as two of the greatest statesmen this Nation has ever known. What could be a greater tribute to the first great Democrat and to the man who saved the Union than to carry out the soiution to the race problem which they advocated? It is within our power to complete the work of Jefferson and Lincoln by adopting a program for the resettlement of the American Negroes in a land of their own. When this task has been accomplished, what a great problem we will have solved for ourselves and for our posterity!

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  1. For other quotations from President Lincoln advocating separation, see Chapter III, p. 28 and Chapter XV, p. 264.

  2. This John Temple Graves was the father of the present John Temple Graves, a local newspaper commentator in Birmingham, Alabama. Without Any desire or purpose to belittle or discount the present John Temple Graves, it is fair and right to say that in thought, spirit, ability, and oratorical renown, the father towered above his son like Pike's Peak above a pea-ridge hill.

  3. Mr. Pickett was at this time writing his book, The Negro Problem: Abraham Lincoln's Solution.