Mr. Webb to Mr. Seward.

No. 17.]

Sir: I perceive by allusions in the public press, although the message itself, in extenso, has not come under my observation, that the President, in suggesting the means of carrying out the gradual manumission of the negro, alludes to the necessity of obtaining a place of colonization for the persons manumitted. The wisdom of such a suggestion is too manifest to require discussion; but the purchase of territory for this wise and philanthropic purpose may be attended with difficulties so embarrassing as, in a measure, to defeat the object in view. It has occurred to me, therefore, that the labor question of Brazil, upon the early solution of which so much depends, and to which I have heretofore referred, may be rendered auxiliary to our own difficulty in disposing of the freed negro.

The rapidly increasing value of the negro in the province of Rio Janeiro and all the southern provinces of the empire, and the steadily advancing price of coffee, added to the well ascertained fact that the slave population is on the decrease instead of the increase, as with us, where the African is of a far lower type than those brought to Brazil, is rapidly depopulating the northern provinces of the empire. Every coasting vessel brings its ten to thirty slaves for sale at Rio, for the supply of labor in this vicinity and on the coffee plantations; and the cry is heard from the provinces of Para, Maranham, Pianhi, Parahiba, Pernambuco, and even Bahia, that they are being depopulated, for the benefit of the southern provinces, by the inevitable law of demand and supply. It is now conceded, too, that the negroes on the opposite coast of Africa, whence Brazil was supplied, are a very superior race to the tribes further north, which furnished the slave for the West Indies and the United States. The latter are an ignorant and docile people, and, with few exceptions, they yield themselves naturally to servitude, even in their native Africa. Not so the Minas and tribes further south, and from which Brazil was furnished with laborers. They are a fierce, warlike, and intellectual people, to whom slavery is as much a burden as to many of the Caucasian races, and they are not only ready for insurrection and capable of extensive combinations and conspiracies to effect their liberation, as the insurrection in Bahia some years since abundantly proved, but it is now susceptible of demonstration that, throughout the slave population of Brazil, there exists, to a greater or less extent, an organized conspiracy to prevent the increase of slavery by the mothers committing infanticide! Of course, nature is too powerful in the breasts of women to render such a combination universal, or slavery would cease in a single generation. It is proved, however, that there are sufficient of the fiercer traits among the slaves to render infanticide so frequent as to prevent their increase; and the slave trade being at an end, and colonization from Europe checked by unwise and selfish laws, well may the states men of Brazil tremble at the prospect which the future presents. To me it is clearly manifest that, unless the southern provinces of Brazil are supplied with laborers from abroad, which can only be in consequence of a change in the colonization laws of the empire and some special legislation, those provinces lying under the equator will be robbed of their laborers by reason of the higher [Page 705] price which the slave commands in this region, and, in consequence, the north will revert to the possession of the native Indian and the wild beasts, from whom it was conquered by the introduction of African labor.

Is there no remedy for this great evil now pressing with such force upon Brazil? I think there is, and that Providence is pointing out the mode of relief by the events now transpiring in the United States. In one word, the finger of God, in my mind, points to the northern provinces of Brazil as the future home of the manumitted negro of the United States; and thus, by the simplest of all means, the United States, Brazil, and the freed negro, are all to be equally benefited by one and the same measure, viz: A treaty between the United States and Brazil, by which all the freed negroes of the United States shall be transplanted to the region of the Amazon at the expense of the United States, and there be endowed with land gratuitously by Brazil, and at the expiration of a term of years become citizens of Brazil, with all the rights and privileges of the free negro population of the empire; all of whom, by the constitution, are the recognized equals of the white man, and equally eligible with him to the highest offices of the empire, and where already the social distinction between the white and black races, which once existed, have been nearly eradicated. On the bench and in the legislative halls, in the army and the navy, in the learned professions, and among the professors in her colleges, as also in the pulpit and in the social relations of life, the woolly-headed and thick-lipped descendant of Africa has his place side by side with his white “brother” in Brazil, and not unfrequently jostles him for his position.

Under these circumstances it appears to me quite impossible that the government of Brazil could hesitate to enter into any reasonable arrangement which might be suggested and which does not involve the expenditure of money. It is of vital importance to prevent the further depopulation of the northern provinces; and how can that be done so effectually as to introduce free negro labor, and what is more experienced and practical, negro labor % No person familiar with the subject can for a moment doubt but the government of Brazil, with all its apprehension of negro insurrection, would willingly purchase, at $250 per head, 50,000 Africans for the supply of laborers in the northern provinces. This would be a sum of $12,500,000; and it would cost as much more to qualify these Africans for the performance of the duties required of them—say $25,000,000 for the 50,000 Africans.

Now, I insist that 50,000 freed negroes from the United States would be worth to Brazil more than 100,000 slaves from Africa; and being free men and citizens, all apprehension of insurrection would cease, while of necessity they would adhere to the soil where originally planted, instead of being shipped off and sold as chattels to some other part of the empire where slave labor happened to be in demand. And I propose to give Brazil ten or twenty times that number of freed, practical laborers gratuitously, or in return for land now utterly valueless.

The advantages to Brazil of some such arrangement as I suggest are so palpable that I will not here enter into a consideration of the subject, but when necessary make them apparent to this government, as they must be at a glance to you, should I be authorized to open negotiations upon the subject in question. The object of this communication is to demonstrate what I think would be a feasible and economical plan of colonization to the United States.

1st. It must be assumed as a fact, conceded by all parties, that if we emancipate, we must also be at the expense of colonizing the negro.

2d. If we give to the slave freedom, it is not only the right but the duty of the government to accomplish the object at the least possible expense to the people.

3d. Freedom being the object in view, the true philanthrophist does not insist that it shall be immediate.

[Page 706]

4th. The object to be attained being the freedom of the slave, the time when is a secondary consideration; it being understood that it shall not be unnecessarily delayed.

5th. To make freedom available and conducive to the happiness of the slave? as well as desirable, a probationary state of “apprenticeship” may become in most cases an absolute necessity.

6th. The expense to our government of colonizing the freed slave should be reduced to the smallest possible sum, and, if possible, his colonization should be at his own expense, and our government be altogether exempt from the burden.

7th. I suppose that if the question were put to the people of the United States, whether they would willingly incur an expense of $100 per head in colonizing the freed negro, the response would be “aye,” and the feeling would be universally in favor of their expatriation to some place where they would cease to have any political connexion with our country.

Now, my belief is—but it is of course only an opinion, and it will require time to discuss and consider it in all its bearings—that ten thousand, an hundred thousand, or even a million of manumitted slaves may be comfortably transported to Brazil, and here become valuable auxiliaries and useful citizens without one dollar of expense to our government, and solely at the expense of the colonist himself.

It must be borne in mind that in the infancy of our republic, when it was desirable to entice the immigrant to our shores at his own cost, and at the same time to devise means for the poor laborer to come to us, we passed laws authorizing the owners and masters of vessels to bring such immigrants to our shores at their own cost and to possess a lien upon their time and labor out of which to remunerate themselves for the cost of transportation to the free soil and all the blessings of the free institutions of the United States. Under those laws thousands of the laboring poor of Europe came to our shores, and upon landing they were literally sold to the person who would pay the charges against them for the shortest period of labor. They thus became apprenticed to their new masters for a period of time varying from six to eighteen months and two years, according to the amount of their indebtedness to the vessel which brought them across the Atlantic. These people were known as “redemptionists,” and you and I know children of these “redemptionists” who have filled high and honorable places in the republic, and the bronze monument to Jefferson in front of the Presidential mansion is a living testimony of the legislation referred to. The law was a wise one, and the result proved it to be expedient and suited to* the exigency of the times in which it existed. It was good for the fathers and mothers of some of our most useful citizens, and fanatical indeed must be the man who would perceive any injustice or cruelty in applying the principles of these early laws of the republic to the manumitted slave or negro in the process of transformation from a mere chattel into a freeman. Instead of manumitting the slave, then, at once, he should be made to pass through a transition state, in which he would be educated for the ultimate enjoyment of his freedom, at the same time that he would be paying the expense of his education and the cost of his transportation to his future home.

What with “contrabands” now on hand, and those which must accumulate pending this civil war, it is quite safe to say they will number at least thirty thousand at the termination of the war, without counting upon the action of slave States under the resolution of Congress. Their case will require immediate attention and prompt action, and the result of that action is destined to exercise a controlling influence upon the future action of the northern slave States on the recommendation of the President and the resolution of Congress. I propose, then, simply as suggestions for your consideration and for the consideration of all the philanthropists of the United States or throughout the world, that a [Page 707] joint-stock colonization company be created, the liability of every subscriber to which shall be limited to the amount of his subscription, and that the president of such company, and one-fifth of the directors, shall be appointed by the President of the United States; that for every dollar subscribed and paid in, the government shall loan the company, at five per cent, per annum, an equal amount, the sum to be subscribed in the first place to be limited to $3,000,000, to be increased from time to time, according to the demands for colonization. This would give the company an active capital of $6,000,000. The contrabands, or manumitted slaves, should be then transferred to this company to be transported to Brazil, or such other place as may be agreed upon, and the company to have a claim for their services for three years from the time of their arrival. At the expiration of their apprenticeship the freed negroes to receive a certain amount of land, of which at least five acres shall have been cleared, have a hut on it, and shall be rendered suitable for immediate cultivation at the expense of the company; and the emancipated colonist also to have bestowed upon him certain agricultural implements and——dollars in money.

Is this feasible? I have not a doubt of it; and if feasible, then, beyond all peradventure, it is a project well worthy the consideration of the philanthropist, the capitalist, and the governments of the United States and Brazil.

1st. Brazil should, and no doubt would, willingly set apart a tract of country in a healthy locality or localities on the shores of the Amazon or in that region, and convey in fee to the company at least one hundred acres of land for every colonist freed, and a proportionate number of acres for all children born to the colonists during their apprenticeship, who, of course, would be liberated with their parents.

2d. Only one-fifth or some specific portion of the land thus granted should be required to be conveyed to the liberated apprentice; the remainder to belong to the company as profits, to be sold by them to the colonists or whomsoever they please, under certain restrictions, to remunerate it for having cleared a portion of the land for the liberated apprentice, and erected him a hut, and furnished him with implements of industry, &c, &c, in addition to the expense of his transportation to the colony and caring for him during his apprenticeship.

3d. Beyond all question, the value of the labor of the colonist, during his three years of apprenticeship, would quadruple his cost to the company in transporting him to the colony; and thus the company would not only be in a condition to repay its loans from the government of the United States, but to return to the capitalists their entire investment, before the expiration of the manumitted slave’s term of apprenticeship! and at the same time be in a condition to add largely to the quantity of land and other gratuities extended to the liberated apprentice.

4th. This project, if applicable and successful in relation to twenty or thirty thousand colonists, would be equally applicable and far more successful when applied to hundreds of thousands.

5th. It would take from our shores our negro population as rapidly as emancipated, without the cost of one dollar to our government, and by simply the loan of a sum which it would cost to transport them to any distant colony.

6th. It would insure to the liberated negro the probationary education so necessary to enable him to enjoy freedom and become a useful citizen of a great empire.

7th. It would be immensely remunerative to the philanthropists who would embark in and, under a certain control from the government, direct its operations.

8th. It would be an inappreciable blessing to the United States, by getting rid of the liberated slave without any future political questions connecting him with the country.

9th. It would be the greatest possible blessing that could be bestowed upon [Page 708] the freed negro, and accomplish his redemption, and conversion into a freeman, in the shortest conceivable time.

10th. It would save to Brazil her northern provinces, and in the course of a very few years add a million of free, experienced, and orderly laborers to aid in developing her inexhaustible resources.

11th. It would, in process of time, furnish the markets of the world with a never-failing supply of cotton and sugar, the produce of free labor.

I submit to your better judgment this rough outline of a project, so little digested and so hastily thrown together, that while no one of its details would probably stand the test of a week’s or even a day’s careful consideration by myself, contains a general idea which good men will, I am sure, hasten to ponder upon, and in the end work out therefrom a great and noble project. And in order that you and others may have the subject under consideration, and not because I wish my crude ideas to be adopted, or even believe them proper to be adopted, I have ventured to bring the matter before you. Experience has taught me that, in all human affairs, it is better to have before you a (plan for the mind to seize upon, although you know at starting that every fraction of such plan must succumb to investigation and consideration as the process of ratiocination progresses. And I repeat that, so far from having any idea that my plan is a good one, I do not doubt that upon reflection I should reject every detail, adhering only to the following general ideas:

1st. It is indispensable to the liberated negro that he should be transferred beyond the limits of the United States while in the transition state of an “apprentice,” and previously to his being finally emancipated after a certain probationary term of labor in his new home.

2d. The United States could and should transport all her liberated slaves .as “apprentices” to an eligible country, where, by their own labor, they can remunerate those who confer upon them this blessing.

3d. The knowledge of this fact, demonstrated by discussion and experiment, would hasten the entire abolition of slavery in the United States.

4th. It is not only the interest of the United States, and absolutely necessary for her internal tranquillity, that she should get rid of the institution of slavery, but, in consequence of the prejudices of our people against the African race, it is indispensable that the liberated negro should be transported beyond our borders, because he can never, with us, enjoy social or political equality.

5th. Brazil is, of all others, the country to which he should be conveyed, because here no such prejudices exist; and here the constitution, the law, and public opinion, as well as practical experience, have paved the way for the elevation of the negro to any position, social or political, for which his talents and education may have qualified him.

6th. Brazil is perishing for want of labor. The slave trade has terminated, never to be revived; so that all supply from that source has ceased. Bad colonization laws and prejudices which it will take years to conquer keep away the European laborer, and before these difficulties can be overcome the disease will have reached a climax; and at this juncture the government of the United States, acting under the control of a higher power, having resolved to get rid of its greatest curse, can offer to Brazil that which she most desires, and at the same time free from bondage hundreds of thousands of our fellow men who have been born in slavery, to elevate them to the condition of freemen in a land where free labor is a necessity; and where free labor only, and the attachment of the laborer to the soil, can prevent the country relapsing into the barbarism which preceded its discovery by the European.

7th. To accomplish all this, God has made it alike the interest of the United States and Brazil to act in concert. The fruit is ripe and only awaits the plucking. The President and the United States and the Secretary of State have but to say the word, and the initiative of a great work will be taken, which, in its [Page 709] results, cannot fail to confer incalculable benefits upon the United States, Brazil, and millions of the African race.

In conclusion, I would remark that my reasons for suggesting a chartered company for this great work are—

1st. That it is desirable, as far as possible, to separate the government from all duties not legitimately or necessarily within its sphere, and to get rid of the jobbing and patronage which would grow out of this enormous undertaking.

2d. To enlist the enterprise, talent, good feeling, and capital of the world in the greatest work ever undertaken by man, being no less than the liberation of millions of slaves, transplanting them to a new home, watching over and caring for them during a term of pupilage, fitting them for freedom, and finally bestowing upon them that great boon when in a condition to appreciate and enjoy it.

3d. Because the government of Brazil might much prefer to deal with a company to giving to any foreign government the rights and privileges which it would be absolutely necessary to possess, and which, if conferred upon a company, could, and necessarily should, be regulated and guaranteed by treaty between the United States and Brazil.

But these are only crude notions. If wiser men should, upon reflection, deem it better, or more politic, or more expedient, that the government of the United States should keep the matter exclusively in its own hands, so be it. Only let it be understood from the start that the matter can be so arranged that the liberated slave shall, by a wise direction of his energies, be made to pay for transportation to his new home and his education for the discharge of the duties of a freeman. The whole subject is one of the greatest magnitude that ever occupied the thoughts, or called forth the energies of man, and wisely cared for, under the providence of God, cannot fail of success. It is quite impossible that in a case where the giver, the receiver, and the party or thing bestowed, are all to be palpably and immensely benefited— where injury cannot possibly result to either, and where there can be no rivalry or jealousy, and where good only, and the greatest good, must accrue to all—it is impossible, I say, that where such are to be the fruits of a project, to look upon its failure as within the scope of probabilities, or even of possibilities. And such is the project of negro colonization from the United States in Brazil, his education there at his own expense, and his becoming a free citizen of a great empire. The United States will be blessed by his absence, and the riddance of a curse which has wellnigh destroyed her; Brazil will receive precisely the species of laborers and citizens best calculated to develop her resources and make her one of the great powers of the earth; and the miserable, ignorant, and down-trodden slave, who is now a mere chattel, with body and soul alike uncared for, will have his shackles knocked off, be liberated, educated for freedom, and have bestowed upon him the great boon of personal liberty.

All which is hastily and crudely submitted, with most profound respect, to the better judgments and more deliberate consideration of those in authority, by their obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

On the necessity of supplying Brazil with labor, and the policy of procuring free black labor from the United States.

The great want of Brazil at this day is labor. From the character of her climate and soil black labor is preferable to white; and because free labor is more stationary, and cannot be removed from the regions to which it has accommodated [Page 710] itself, free black labor, in a national point of view, is preferable to slave labor.

The demand for labor upon the coffee plantations and in the southern provinces of Brazil, generally, is gradually depopulating the northern provinces, because the labor there, being slave labor, the owner of it may transfer and sell it whenever he pleases; and according to the well-established principles of political economy, labor, like every other merchantable commodity, will necessarily flow where it commands the highest price. Hence, according to the laws of demand and supply, the labor of the northern provinces being slave labor, and transportable at the will of the owner, it follows, as an irresistible conclusion, that just as the demand for labor increases in the southern provinces, and the price of the slave advances, that demand will be supplied by transferring the slave of the northern provinces to the regions where the greater demand and consequent higher prices exist. The consequences are inevitable, and to Brazil most disastrous, being no less than the depopulation of the northern provinces, and their relapsing into the state of barbarism from which they were rescued by African slave labor.

Were it the more temperate and genial southern provinces of the empire which are threatened with this depopulation, time would remedy the evil; because in process of time the government and people of Brazil will come to perceive the absolute necessity of passing such wise and liberal colonization laws as will insure emigration and a supply of white free labor from the too densely populated regions of Europe. But, unfortunately, not so in regard to those northern provinces of this vast empire, lying under and in the regions of the tropics, whose undeveloped resources could afford employment to all the unemployed labor of the world, and in time render Brazil the richest and the greatest among the kingdoms of the earth. They cannot be redeemed and cultivated by white labor. Suffer them once to become depopulated, and how is the evil to be remedied and its consequences to be averted? The African slave trade can never again supply the negro labor alone suited to the region; and white labor is quite out of the question. Free negro labor, then, is the only possible mode of averting from Brazil the great evil with which she is threatened, and the gradual but certain approach of which does not appear to have awakened generally the anxiety and alarm it is so well calculated to excite. And the great author of all good appears to have placed within the grasp of Brazil the remedy which of all others is alone calculated to avert from her the threatened evil.

God has built up in the hearts of the people of the United States of America, whose soil and climate is uncongenial to slave labor, a horror of the institution of slavery, which has resulted in the greatest civil war the world has ever witnessed, and which can never be brought to a close without the emancipation of at least a million of slaves within the next five years, and of the whole four millions within a reasonable period. Time and circumstances, not necessary to be considered in this memorial, have produced prejudices between the white and black races in the United States, which, to the honor of Brazil, do not exist here, and which render it absolutely impossible that the two races should live together on terms of social and political equality. When manumitted, therefore, there exists an absolute necessity that the freed negro should be transported beyond the jurisdiction of the United States, where he can never enjoy political or social equality. The negro thus to be manumitted has been trained to labor, is docile and tractable, but sighs for freedom. And God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, has rendered it the policy and the interest of the United States and Brazil to secure to him that freedom. Brazil is absolutely suffering for labor. Four millions of negroes educated to labor, each one of whom is worth three native Africans, are sighing for freedom, and ready to purchase it on the genial soil and under the liberal laws and institutions of Brazil.

[Page 711]

The United States stand ready to throw on the instant from ten to fifty thousand of her experienced and educated laborers upon the soil of Brazil without cost and without price, if Brazil will but open wide her arms to receive them and provide for their future comfort

Most assuredly the finger of providence is manifest in this extraordinary combination of causes, which gives at one and the same moment, and almost without cost to the United States or Brazil—

1st. The riddance by the United States of a population which she is ready to free from bondage by the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars.

2d. A genial home for the emancipated negro, where, by a short apprenticeship, he can secure to himself freedom, political and social equality, and pecuniary prosperity.

3d. To Brazil a supply of necessary and experienced labor at a moment when that necessity is pressing most severely upon her industry and prosperity.

The first great object of Brazil should be to secure to herself this proffered labor; and the modus operandi of doing so it is the purpose of this paper to indicate. Having accomplished this object, which, in her wisdom, I think Brazil cannot omit to do, her next object should be to arrest the process of depopulation now going on from the northern provinces, by directing the first importations of partly emancipated negroes or “apprentices” from the United States to the supplying of the demand for labor in the southern provinces of the empire. And to do this, she has only to give freely of her wild lands, now utterly valueless to her, and forever to remain so, unless she places upon them the proper laborer for their cultivation. And if that laborer is to become a freeman and a citizen of the empire, so much the better for her future prosperity and greatness.

Brazil, at this time, with a foresight and liberality unprecedented, has devised and is constructing a system of internal improvements which commands the admiration of the world. The government loans its credit to do what individual enterprise could not accomplish, and freely guarantees satisfactory results to the capitalists of Europe who build her railroads. But it is not unknown to the statesman of Brazil that the far-seeing and shrewd capitalist has already halted in his desire to invest in the stock of her railroads, because, as he alleges with too much apparent truth, that after they are completed and have opened to commerce the finest coffee, sugar, and cotton regions in the world, the absence of laborers to cultivate and produce these great staples will leave her railroads without employment for a tithe of their capacity, and thus render them almost valueless, instead of largely remunerative. It is all-important, then, to the credit as well as the prosperity of Brazil, that a very large laboring population should immediately be thrown into the rich agricultural regions whence her railroads are directed, and from which, when they are completed, there will be but little or no traffic for them, because there will be but little agricultural product to transport. To draw the labor for agriculture, in this quarter, from the more northern provinces would be a fatal error; and, therefore, to prevent or arrest the drain from thence already existing is a matter of primary importance, which can only be accomplished by the immediate introduction of free white or black labor.

Of the general and almost universal progress of evil growing out of the existing demand for labor it is unncessary to speak. Every wise man in Brazil well knows that since the suppression of the slave trade and the cessation of a supply of labor through that channel the value of a slave has nearly quadrupled, and the actual value of labor has increased at least two hundred per cent. As an inevitable result, and in strict accordance with the principles of political economy, all the necessaries of life have advanced in nearly the same ratio. The consequence is, that the masses are daily becoming poorer, and in time this, state of things must brood discontent with the government, whether it be or be [Page 712] not in its power to afford the necessary relief. The author of this paper has witnessed, through a long life of practical experience, the beneficial influences of good colonization and naturalization laws upon the introduction of free labor into a new country, and the almost miraculous prosperity, national and individual, flowing therefrom; and as a friend to the future greatness of Brazil, he entreats of her to pass laws calculated to draw towards her the free labor of overpopulated Europe, and to seize with avidity the proffered opportunity, if not already too late, of securing to herself the manumitted negro of the United States; and he therefore proposes to his Imperial Majesty that a concession be made in the following form or substance, or such other form as may retain and embody the substance thereof, and that the same be embodied in a treaty to be negotiated between the author of this paper, as the accredited representative of the United States, and Brazil, for the approval of the Executive and Senate of the United States.