Back to top

A Sermon Delivered Before the Vermont Colonization Society


Tract containing a sermon by John Hough, an advocate for deportation and colonization of emancipated slaves in Africa (Montpellier, Vermont: Vermont Colonization Society, 1826). Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.

This text by John Hough, a Congregationalist minister and professor at Middlebury College, is both antislavery and anti-black.  Hough represents the ideology of the American Colonization Society, established in 1816 with the goal of ending slavery through removal of blacks to Africa.  The Colonization Society enjoyed substantial political support, considerably more than Garissonian abolitionism.  For a standard history of the society, see P.J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement, 1815-1865 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961).

Hough asserts that there is a complete contradiction between slavery and Christian principles, and that the institution offends a Christian spirit of benevolence.  He holds that slavery offends the natural justice of the Golden Rule, and that this represents a betrayal of Christianity.  However, emancipation within the United States would not, in Hough’s opinion, be beneficial either to blacks or to US society.  He writes “the state of the free colored population of the United States, is one of extreme and remediless degradation, of gross irreligion, ofrevolting profligacy and, of course, of deplorable wretchedness; whocan doubt, that has an eye to perceive, an intellect to appreciate and a heart to lament their condition? Though nominally free, they are in a state of actual servility.”  (p. 8)  He continues “Not only are they degraded and ignorant, the free blacks among us are … often irreligious and profligate to the extreme.”  (pp. 9-10) 

After advancing claims concerning the prevalence of vice and criminality in the black community, Hough concludes that a deportation scheme is necessary in order to separate black and white societies.  Not only will colonization offer new opportunities for blacks, he suggests, but American black colonization of Africa will aid in civilizing and Christianizing the continent.  According to this view, Southern slave-holders would be willing to endorse an end to slavery if they could avoid the encumberance of a black population and send them to Africa, thus ending a sectional conflict in US society.  Moreover, by doing so through colonization slave-holders will avoid both the moral corruption of black slaves and the preeminent possibility of slave revolts.  For more on representation of blacks by colonization advocates, see Philip C. Wander, “Salvation Through Separation: The Image of the Negro in the American Colonization Society,”  Quarterly Journal of Speech (1971) 57:57-67. 

John Hough’s Sermon represents a nexus of antislavery and racialist thought, one where opposition to slavery emerged from a racial animus to the presence of blacks in a predominantly white society.

— Joe Lockard