Library - Colonization Society

Pennsylvania Colonization Society and Constitution and Minutes (1830 - 1913)

Young Men's Colonization Society of Pennsylvania Constitution and Minutes (1830-1941)

 The following description is excerpted from "The Survey of the Special Negro Collection and Related Resources of the Vail Memorial Library, Lincoln University," prepared by Donald C. Yelton, Librarian (Typescript, February 164):

The most significant manuscript collection in the library's possession is comprised of six volumes of minutes, and another volume containing constitution and by-laws and rosters of early officers and trustees, of the Pennsylvania Colonization Society. With a single gap (from 11 December 1849 to July 1856) the minutes are inclusive for the period 2 January 1838 to 28 January 1913. The historic interest of the collection lies chiefly in the earliest volume. The first lacuna in the set (from the date of the Society's foundation in 1830 through 1837) is partially compensated for by another and related minute-book in the library's possession with entries from 1834 through 1840, plus a coda of perfunctory and unrevealing entries in 1841 and 1843. This supplementary resource is a single MS volume captioned "Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Young Men's Colonization Society of Pennsylvania," but actually a composite of the minutes of the named committee, superseded at some date impossible to fix definitely by internal evidence but assumed on inferential grounds to be no later than 1837, by the minutes of the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Colonization Society. The Young Men's society was an insurgent group jointly responsible with a counterpart society in New York for the founding of the agricultural and "temperance" colony of Bassa Cove, established in the year of the society's founding (1834). Our minute book, comprehending and going beyond the brief and indeterminate life-span of the Young Men's society, contains early entries relating to the infant colony in the hand of Thomas Buchanan, cousin of the future President and secretary of the Society during the chairmanship of Elliott Cresson. Later entries in the book record the appointment in December 1838 of one-time secretary Buchanan to the governorship of the Commonwealth of Liberia-a post of which he was the first incumbent (his predecessors having had the title of "agent") as well as the next to last, since J.J. Roberts, who succeeded him in the governorship following his death of fever in 1841, in 1847 assumed the post of President of the new Liberian republic.

Following an intrusive entry of June 21, 1843, a series of entries for 1840 trail off in a succession of six "No quorum" entries for the months of January and February 1841. A number of later pages of the books are given over to lists of local societies in Pennsylvania and neighboring states organized during the years 1835-1839, copies of invoices for supplies shipped to Bassa Cove and lists of donations during the years 1834-1837; registers of emigrants for the years 1834-1864; and record of applicants for the years 1835-1838.

The African Colonization Movement

In the nineteenth century a movement developed in the United States among those who opposed slavery but who thought that immediate emancipation of all slaves was an unrealistic or unworkable goal. The "colonization" movement proposed to send free blacks to Africa, hopefully to live better lives, untainted by the race prejudice that permeated American society. Some who opposed these colonizationists accused them of trying to maintain slavery by sending out of the country all free blacks, who might instigate rebellions among slaves. Colonizationists denied these charges, insisting that emigration to Africa should always be voluntary. Lincoln University's founders were colonizationists who had the additional motive of wanting to Christianize the African continent and who believed that black missionaries would be better suited to survive tropical diseases than white missionaries. Lincoln University's first name, in fact, Ashmun Institute, memorialized Jehudi Ashmun, the United States' first representative to Liberia, which was established by the American Colonization Society as a place for free blacks to settle in 1822.

Pennsylvania Colonization Society:

Constitution & Bylaws & Presidents, Vice Presidents, Treasurers, Managers, Life Members, 1830

Minute Books - Select from list: 

Young Men's Colonization Society Executive Committee:

Minute Book (1834-1841)

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has funded preservation microfilming and digitization of these historic resources. Service copies of the microfilms are available for viewing at the Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg, PA.