The Persistent Presence of a Successful Failure; The Maryland State Colonization Society and the Importance of its Existence

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Historical Studies

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In 1832, the Maryland State Colonization Society officially seceded from the American Colonization Society. With this declaration of independence, the Maryland State Colonization Society embarked on a thirty year journey during which it failed miserably in its very purpose. The Maryland State Colonization Society failed to convince free African Americans to immigrate to Africa in order to pursue a life free of oppression and racism. Nevertheless, the Maryland State Colonization Society sustained an official and financial relationship with the Maryland General Assembly during this period. The thesis explores the underlying motivations and controversies which allowed the Maryland General Assembly to look to the Maryland State Colonization Society as the answer to its own sectional crises. Through the rhetoric and arguments published in the Maryland Colonization Journal, the Maryland State Colonization Society became a voice for moderation and compromise amongst the divisive and sectional viewpoints of the North and South. Providing a program which slaveholders and anti-slavery proponents could suit to their own beliefs, the white population of Maryland could believe that they had answered the problem of slavery and a growing free African American population. Through the Maryland State Colonization Society's program, the population of Maryland made a deliberate and prolonged evaluation of slavery's present and future role in the state. Consequently, this allowed the legislatures and leaders of Maryland to make the pragmatic decision to remain in the Union during the Civil War.