Frederick Douglass Paper 1852-02-12

Cassius M. Clay: “The Blacks Should Get Money”

The Free Negroes and Colonization

At the late Convention of colored people held in Cincinnati, the question of emigration was fully discussed, and a resolution passed against the plan of the African Colonization Society and in favor of emigration to some point on the American continent.

Various letters on this and on other topics of interest to the free blacks, were received from distinguished persons. Senator Wade, of Ohio, advised them to seek the elevation of their race by education, and engaging in respectable occupations. Hon. Horace Mann gave the same advice, and expressed his belief that their condition would one day be improved by the force of their developed capacity for acquiring the highest grades of education and for dignified employments.

A letter was received from Cassius M. Clay, of which the following is an extract:

Cassius Marcellus Clay

Cassius Marcellus Clay

“For my part, as much as I sympathize with Hungary and her noble sons, I have just as much heart for the wrongs of Africa and her sons. I care nothing for that “right” which regards caste – nothing for that philanthropy which extends not to all climes and colors. I have no faith in the permanent inferiority of nations. Virtue, patience, energy, self-denial, and an eternal purpose to improve, may place the African where the Saxon now is! While the opposite vices may degrade the Saxon below the African – I avoid no responsibility – my advice shall be given as it is asked. So far as morals are concerned, you will find the best guide in the Christian teaching. So far as social interests are concerned you have a long probation before you. So long as the slavery of your race exists, I regard social equality, even in the Free States, as impossible. But as Burns has it, “A man’s a man for a’ that.” – I would advise universal education, as the first desideratum, rigid economy in dress and all luxuries.

The blacks should get money. Let them go into trade, become farmers, manufacturers, when capital and employment are lacking let them combine and thus reduce the expense of living, and increase the productive power. With regard to “political rights” you must bide your time. The best road to political elevation lies through the road of industry, and self-respect; which will at least wear us into a generous magnanimity. Above all, let me, who am regarded (unjustly though it be) as a man of blood, urge upon your obedience to the laws. After a while if you oppressors do not knock off your chains you will outgrow them! And may God defend the right!”

These counsels and suggestions of Mr. Clay are worthy to be pondered by every colored man in this country. They prove that gentleman, to be as morally courageous as he is known to be physically brave.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.


Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: Frederick Douglass Paper
Date: February 12, 1852
Title: The Free Negroes and Colonization
Location: Rochester, New York

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