The Past and the Present Condition, and the Destiny, of the Colored Race

The Past and the Present Condition, and the Destiny, of the Colored Race

Henry Highland Garnet

Edited by Paul Royster
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Steam press of J. C. Kneeland and Co.
31 pages

The text of this electronic edition is based on the original published at Troy, New York, in 1848. It was transcribed from a facsimile edition—issued on 1969 by Mnemosyne Publishing Inc., Miami, Florida—which was photo-offset from a copy in the Fisk University Library. Except as noted below, the spelling, punctuation, italics, and capitalization of the original have been preserved. Variant nineteenth-century spellings (such as “carcase” or “develope”) have been retained. Some typographical errors have been corrected and re listed below at the end of the text.

A discourse delivered at the fifteenth anniversary of the Female Benevolent Society of Troy, New York, February 14, 1848.


My theme is the Past and the Present condition, and the Destiny of the Colored race. The path of thought which you are invited to travel, has not as I am aware, been pursued heretofore to any considerable extent. The Present, is the midway between the Past and the Future. Let us ascend that sublime eminence, that we may view the vast empire of ruin that is scarcely discernable through the mists of former ages ; and if, while we are dwelling upon the desolations that meet our eyes, we shall mourn over them, I entreat you to look upward and behold the bright scenery of the future. There we have a clear sky, and from thence are refreshing breezes. The airy plains are radiant with prophetic brightness, and truth, love, and liberty are descending the heavens, bearing the charter of man’s destiny to a waiting world.

All the various forms of truth that are presented to the minds of men, are in perfect harmony with the government of God. Many things that appear to be discordant are not really so ; for when they are understood, and the mind becomes illuminated and informed, the imagined deformities disappear as spectres depart from the vision of one who had been a maniac, when his reason returns. “God is the rock, his work is perfect—a God of truth, and without iniquity. Justice and judgment are the habitations of his throne, and mercy and truth go before his face. His righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and his law is the truth.”…

This western world is destined to be filled with a mixed race. Statesmen, distinguished for their forecast, have gravely said that the blacks must either be removed, or such as I have stated will be the result. It is a stubborn fact, that it is impossible to separate the pale man and the man of color, and therefore the result which to them is so fearful, is inevitable. All this the wiser portion of the Colonizationists see, and they labor to hinder it. It matters not whether we abhor or desire such a consummation, it is now too late to change the decree of nature and circumstances. As well might we attempt to shake the Alleghanies with our hands, or to burst the rock of Gibralter with our fists. If the colored people should all consent to leave this country, on the day of their departure there would be sore lamentations, the like of which the world has not heard since Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted, because they were not. We would insist upon taking all who have our generous and prolific blood in their veins. In such an event, the American church and state would be bereaved. The Reverend Francis L. Hawks, D. D., of the Protestant Episcopal Church, a man who is receiving the largest salary of any divine in the country, would be called upon to make the sacrifice of leaving a good living, and to share the fate of his brethren according to the flesh. The Reverend Dr. Murphy, of Herkimer, N. Y., a Presbyterian, would be compelled to leave his beloved flock ; and how could they endure the loss of a shepherd so eloquent, so faithful and so kind. We should be burdened with that renegade negro of the United States Senate, Mr. YULEE, of Florida. We should take one of the wives of Senator Samuel Houston. The consort,—the beautiful Cleopatra of his Excellency, R. M. Johnson, late Democratic Vice President of this great nation,—would be the foremost in the vast company of exiles. After we all should return to tread the golden sands of AFRICA, whether we would add to the morality of our kindred across the deep waters future generations would decide. One thing I am certain of, and that is, many of the slaveholders and lynchers of the South are not very moral now. Our cousins of the tribe of Shem are welcome to our deserters. If they are enriched by them they may be assured that we are not impoverished…

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