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Sep 30, 1829

Walker’s Timeless “Appeal,” Part Two

“Should tyrants take it into their heads to emancipate any of you, remember that your freedom is your natural right…God will dash tyrants…into atoms.”

Editor’s Note

In the second half of his Appeal, David Walker continues his assault against the foundations of slavery and the deplorable conditions under which African Americans labored in their daily lives.  He begins the third article with a history of African slavery in the New World from its origins in the decrees of the Spanish king and Holy Roman Emperor and the first permissions to land four thousand slaves in the Caribbean.  Within a century, the hapless and half-starved settlers of Virginia eagerly imported African slaves to offset their constant monetary losses and shortage of capable labor.  Over the centuries, economic need and base greed warped into “principled” and “religious” justifications for what was, according to Christian doctrine, an obvious evil.  Finally, Walker identifies the primary political factor driving his Appeal: the veritable “schemecalled “colonization,” through which American slaveholders from John Randolph of Roanoke to Henry Clay wished to separate freed and independent African Americans from their enslaved and ignorant brethren.  Through colonization, planters could open a trans-Atlantic safety-valve, offload their more troublesome black chattels (who could die in Africa for all the planters cared), and rest comfortably in bed, assured of their safety.  The Appeal concludes that Americans may indeed enjoy their peace, but they cannot—they will not be allowed to—have peace at the expense of justice.

Walker died a short year after publishing his Appeal (leading sympathetic newspapers to allege that he was poisoned).  The Appeal appeared in the South circa 1830, followed soon after by Nat Turner’s (apparently) unconnected rebellion in Virginia.  The Turner slave revolt shocked and horrified Americans everywhere, but especially in the slavery-heavy Deep South and Tidewater regions.  Planters responded to Turner by spending the next three decades constructing a police state to enfore slave codes and suppress the ever-present threat of rebellion.  Southern elites determined to do everything necessary to preserve their wealth and power, flatly denying the essentially Jeffersonian principles expressed in Walker’s powerful and revolutionary text.

Anthony Comegna, PhD
Assistant Editor for Intellectual History

Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles, Together with a Preamble to the Colored Citizens of the World, but in Particular and Very Expressly to Those of the United States of America (Excerpts)

Boston. 1829.

By David Walker

Article 3.  Our Wretchedness in Consequence of the Preachers of the Religion of Jesus Christ.

It is well known to the Christian world, that Bartholomew Las Casas, that very notoriously avaricious Catholic priest or preacher, and adventurer with Columbus in his second voyage, proposed to his countrymen, the Spaniards in Hispaniola to import the Africans from the Portuguese settlement in Africa, to dig up gold and silver, and work their plantations for them…This man, (“Las Casas, the Preacher,”) succeeded so well in his plans of oppression, that in 1503, the first blacks had been imported into the new world.  Elated with this success, and stimulated by sordid avarice only, he importuned Charles V in 1511, to grant permission to a Flemish merchant, to import 4000 blacks at one time.  Thus we see, through the instrumentality of a pretended preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ our common master, our wretchedness first commenced in America, where it has been continued from 1503, to this day, 1829.  A period of three hundred and twenty six years.  But two hundred and nine, from 1620—when twenty of our fathers were brought into Jamestown, Virginia, by a Dutch man of war, and sold off like brutes to the highest bidders; and there is not a doubt in my mind, but that tyrants are in hopes to perpetuate our miseries under them and their children until the final consummation of all things.—But if they do not get dreadfully deceived, it will be because God has forgotten them…

The Pagans, Jews and Mahometans try to make proselytes to their religions, and whatever human beings adopt their religions they extend to them their protection.  But Christian Americans, not only hinder their fellow creatures, the Africans, but thousands of them will absolutely beat a coloured person nearly to death, if they catch him on his knees, supplicating the throne of grace…Yes, I have known small collections of coloured people to have convened together, for no other purpose than to worship God Almighty, in spirit and in truth, to the best of their knowledge; when tyrants calling themselves patrols, would also convene and wait almost in breathless silence, for the poor coloured people to commence singing and praying to the Lord our God, and as soon as they had commenced the wretches would burst in upon them and drag them out and commence beating them as they would rattle-snakes—many of whom, they would beat so unmercifully that they would hardly be able to crawl for weeks and sometimes for months—Yet the American ministers send out missionaries to convert the heathen, while they keep us and our children sunk at their feet in the most abject ignorance and wretchedness that ever a people was afflicted with since the world began…

How can the preachers and people of America believe the Bible?  Does it teach them any distinction on account of a man’s colour?…

But the Americans having introduced slavery among them, their hearts have become almost seared as with an hot iron, and God has nearly given them up to believe a lie in preference to the truth!!!! And I am awfully afraid that pride, prejudice, avarice and blood will before long, prove the final ruin of this happy republic, or land of liberty!!!!!  Can any thing be a greater mockery of religion than the way in which it is conducted by the Americans?  It appears as though they are bent only on daring God Almighty to do his best…Will he not stop them, preachers and all?  O!  Americans!  Americans!!  I call God—I call angels—I call men, to witness, that your destruction is at hand, and will be speedily consummated, unless you repent.

Article 4.  Our Wretchedness in Consequence of the Colonizing Plan.

My dearly beloved brethren:—This is a scheme…

That is to say, [it is] a plan to get those of the coloured people, who are said to be free, away from among those of our brethren, whom they unjustly hold in bondage so that they may be enabled to keep them the more secure in ignorance and wretchedness, to support them and their children, and consequently, they would have the more obedient slaves.  For if the free are allowed to stay among the slaves, they will have intercourse together, and of course, the free will learn the slaves bad habits, by teaching them, that they are men, as well as other people, and certainly ought and must be free…

The Americans of North and of South America, including the West-India Islands—no trifling portion of whom, were, for stealing, murdering, &c. compelled to flee from Europe, to save their necks or banishment, have effected their escape to this continent, where God blessed them with all the comforts of life—He gave them a plenty of every thing calculated to do them good—not satisfied with this, however, they wanted slaves, and wanted us for their slaves, who belong to the Holy Ghost and no other, who we shall have to serve instead of tyrants.—I say, the Americans want us, the property of the Holy Ghost, to serve them.  But there is a day fast approaching, when (unless there is a universal repentance on the part of the whites, which will scarcely be done, they have got to be so hardened in consequence of our blood, and so wise in their own conceit)  To be plain and candid with you, Americans!  I say that the day is fast approaching when there will be a greater time on the continent of America than ever was witnessed upon this earth…Some of you, have done us so much, that you will never be able to repent—Your cup must be filled—You want us for your slaves and shall have enough of us—God is just, who will give you your fill of us

Do you believe that Mr. Henry Clay, late Secretary of State, and now in Kentucky, is a friend to the blacks further than his personal interest extends?  Is it not his greatest object and glory upon earth, to sink us into miseries and wretchedness by making slaves of us, to work his plantation to enrich him and his family?  Does he care a pinch of snuff about Africa—whether it remains a land of Pagans and of blood, or of Christians, so long as he gets enough of her sons and daughters to dig up gold and silver for him?…Would he work in the hot sun to earn his bread, if he could make an African work for nothing, particularly, if he could keep him in ignorance and make him believe that God made him for nothing else but to work for him?…I have been for sometime taking notice of this man’s speeches and public writings, but never to my knowledge have I seen any thing in his writings which insisted on the emancipation of slavery, which has almost ruined his country.  Thus we see the depravity of men’s hearts, when in pursuit only of gain…

Here is a demonstrative proof, of a plan got up, by a gang of slave-holders, to select the free people of colour from among the slaves, that our more miserable brethren may be the better secured in ignorance and wretchedness, to work their farms and dig their mines, and thus go on enriching the Christians with their blood and groans…This country is as much ours as it is the whites, whether they will admit it now or not, they will see and believe it by and by.  They tell us about prejudice—what have we to do with it?  Their prejudices will be obliged to fall like lightning to the ground, in succeeding generations; not, however, with the will and consent of all the whites, for some will be obliged to hold on to the old adage, viz:  the blacks are not men, but were made to be an inheritance to us and our children, forever!!!!!!  I hope the residue of the coloured people, will stand still and see the salvation of God, and the miracle which he will work for our delivery from wretchedness under the Christians!!!!!!!…

I say, from the beginning, I do not think that we were natural enemies to each other.  But the whites having made us so wretched, by subjecting us to slavery and having murdered so many millions of us…Man, in all ages and all nations of the earth is the same.  Man is a peculiar creature—he is the image of his God, though he may be subjected to the most wretched condition upon earth, yet that spirit and feeling which constitute the creature, man, can never be entirely erased from his breast, because the God who made him after his own image planted it in his heart, he cannot get rid of it.  The whites knowing this, they do not know what to do, they know that they have done us so much injury they are afraid, that we, being men, and not brutes, will retaliate, and woe will be to them, therefore, that dreadful fear, together, with an avaricious spirit, and the natural love in them, to be called masters…bring them to the resolve, that they will keep us…as long as they possibly can, and make the best of their time while it lasts.  Consequently they, themselves, (and not us,) render themselves, our natural enemies, by treating us so cruel.  They keep us miserable now, and call us their property, but some of them will have enough of us by and by—their stomachs shall run over with us, they want us for their slaves, and shall have us to their fill…Let no man of us budge one step, and let slave-holders come to beat us from our country.  America is more our country, than it is the whites—we have enriched it with our blood and tears.  The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood and tears:—and will they drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood?  They must look sharp or this very thing will bring swift destruction upon them.  The Americans have got so far upon our blood and groans, that they have almost forgotten the God of armies.  But let them go on…

I speak Americans for your good.  We must and shall be free I say, in spite of you…And wo, wo, will be to you if we have to obtain our freedom by fighting.  Throw away your fears and prejudices then, and enlighten us and treat us like men, and we will like you more than we do not hate you, and tell us no more about colonization, for—America is as much our country, as it is yours.—Treat us like men, and there is no danger but we all will live in peace and happiness together.  For we are not like you, hard hearted, unmerciful, and unforgiving.  What a happy country this will be, if the whites will listen….Treat us then like men, and we will be your friends.  And there is not a doubt in my mind, but that the whole of the past, will be sunk into oblivion, and we yet, under God, will become a united and happy people.  The whites may say it is impossible, but remember, that nothing is impossible with God…

Should tyrants take it into their heads to emancipate any of you, remember that your freedom is your natural right…Whether you believe it or not, I tell you that God will dash tyrants, in combination with Devils, into atoms, and will bring you out from your wretchedness and miseries under these Christian People!!!!!!

[Walker quotes the Declaration of Independence at length.]

Now, Americans!  I ask you candidly, was your sufferings under Great Britain, one hundredth part as cruel and tyrannical as you have rendered ours under you?…

The Americans may be as vigilant as they please, but they cannot be vigilant enough for the Lord, neither can they hide themselves, where he will not find and bring them out.

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