Introduction

Established in 1824, the New Jersey Colonization Society (NJCS) served as an auxiliary chapter to the American Colonization Society (ACS) in Washington, D.C. Like the national organization, the NJCS advanced African colonization as a conservative solution to racial and political tensions in the antebellum United States. Although opposed to slavery, members of the society neither supported immediate abolition nor believed free blacks could ever live with white Americans on terms of equality. By seeking to relocate the country's free black population to Africa, the colonization movement provided its conservative proponents with a viable alternative to the moral dilemma of slavery—without weakening or undermining their commitment to white supremacy. As NJCS officer and Princeton trustee James S. Green stated: “We have indeed a strong regard for the moral, intellectual and political improvement of blacks, but we have a stronger regard for the private property and personal security of the whites.”[1]

As historian Craig Wilder argues in his book on slavery and higher education: “The ACS was born on campus.”[2] Wilder’s statement is especially true for the New Jersey Colonization Society. The chapter held its first meeting at the Princeton Presbyterian Church, and over half of its founding members were affiliated with the College of New Jersey. These connections existed in various forms, with founding members consisting of alumni, trustees, professors such as John Maclean, Jr., and Princeton president James Carnahan.[3]

The NJCS outlined its primary objective in its Constitution:

The objects of the Society shall be, to circulate information among the inhabitants of this State, on the subject of colonizing the free blacks of the United States, and to cooperate with the parent institution at the City of Washington.[4]

More specifically, the NJCS emphasized increasing awareness of the colonization movement within New Jersey. Officers disseminated information about the society throughout the state and worked to increase the number of “its friends and patrons.”[5] They achieved this goal by reaching out to their social networks, particularly Princeton alumni. Given the high percentage of Princeton affiliates among the founders and officers of the NJCS up until the Civil War, it is evident that the NJCS had a strong presence within the broader Princeton network.

List Of Officers Of The New Jersey Colonization Society

Founding officers of the New Jersey Colonization Society. The orange "P" indicates a Princeton affiliate.

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John Maclean Jr.

John Maclean Jr. was a graduate of the College of New Jersey, a beloved professor, and the institution’s tenth president (1854 to 1868). Yet Maclean’s deep connections to Princeton existed long before he served as one of its most popular presidents. Maclean grew up in the town of Princeton, and his father John Maclean Sr. served as the first chemistry professor at the college.[6] After the younger Maclean graduated from the college in 1816, he continued his education at the Princeton Theological Seminary before returning to the college as a tutor in 1818.[7] By age 23, he had become a full-time professor at Princeton.[8] Maclean taught under President James Carnahan, a fellow founder of the New Jersey Colonization Society.

Growing up in Princeton, Maclean Jr. lived in a slave-owning household.[9] Yet Maclean found the institution of slavery difficult to reconcile with his religious beliefs, placing him in a complicated position. The colonization movement provided a way to balance his political and religious ideals, as it provided a solution to the moral issues surrounding slavery without condoning immediate, universal emancipation or jeopardizing white supremacy.

When the American Colonization Society established an auxiliary branch in New Jersey in 1824, Maclean immediately took a prominent leadership role. Maclean served as the NJCS's first secretary and later became one of its six vice presidents.[10] At the same time, Maclean began his full-time teaching career at the college. Maclean used his connections at Princeton to recruit members and solicit funds for the NJCS from other faculty members—receiving donations from Professor Stephen Alexander, and engaging Professor James W. Alexander to speak at meetings of the society.[11]

Portrait Of John Maclean

Portrait of John Maclean Jr., tenth president of the College of New Jersey (1854–1868).

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James Carnahan

James Carnahan graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1800.[12] After graduation, he worked as a tutor at the college before establishing his own classical seminary in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.[13] In 1823, Carnahan was elected president of the College of New Jersey and served until 1854—longer than any other Princeton president to date.

Carnahan was among the founding members of the New Jersey Colonization Society, serving as Director and Honorary Manager in 1824. He continued to hold these positions until 1826.[14] Even while serving as president of the College of New Jersey, Carnahan remained an active member of the society. Notably, Carnahan helped the NJCS maintain its religious foundation by reading Bible verses at the meetings.[15] Although President Carnahan relinquished his position in the society after three years, he continued to donate money, and thus remained involved in the movement throughout his career at Princeton.[16]

Portrait Of James Carnahan

Portrait James Carnahan, ninth president of the College of New Jersey (1823–1854).

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Luther Halsey

Luther Halsey served as a professor at Princeton from 1824-1829, teaching several subjects—including Natural Philosophy, Natural History, and Chemistry.[17] When the college chose to hire Halsey in 1824, the committee responsible for his appointment was composed entirely of New Jersey Colonization Society founders: James Carnahan, Richard Stockton, Samuel Miller, and George Woodhull.[18]

In 1825, the Treasurer’s Report recorded that Halsey became a lifetime member of the NJCS after a onetime donation of $20 (roughly $800 in present-day currency).[19] Halsey was not an original founding member, but he became a manager of the society in 1826.[20] It is reasonable to assume that Halsey’s close relationship with prominent members of the NJCS and the College of New Jersey alike rendered him favorable to the movement.

James S. Green

Although James S. Green did not attend Princeton, his father Ashbel Green served as president of the college from 1812 to 1822.[21] The younger Green remained closely tethered to the college throughout his life, serving as treasurer in 1828 and as a trustee from 1828 to 1862.[22]

Given his father’s role as president and residence at the President's House, James Green essentially grew up on the Princeton campus. During his childhood and some of his young adult life, the Green family owned a slave named Betsey Stockton. According to his father, James helped to educate Stockton on religion and other subjects while they grew up together in the same home.[23] Ashbel Green emancipated Betsey Stockton in 1817.[24]

At the founding of the New Jersey Colonization Society, James Green served as one of the society’s six vice presidents.[25] During the society’s early years Green often gave rousing speeches at annual meetings, in which he discussed the ideology and aims of the NJCS. Despite his upbringing in a slaveholding household, Green proclaimed that slavery was indefensible as “a violation of every law, human and divine.”[26] At the same time, Green was adamant that a free black population would be detrimental to American society. At the inaugural meeting of the NJCS, he characterized free blacks in negative terms:

Here is a host of individuals, shut out by education or prejudice, from all social intercourse with the whites; entertaining no natural feelings of sympathy or kindness towards us; utter outcasts from all the highest privileges of freemen, and as to most of them, from all the decencies of civilization.[27]

Green believed that American society’s inherent racism would prevent any possible equality between the races, and thus free blacks would live happier lives in Africa. His statements reflected the conservative nature of the NJCS, which sought gradual emancipation through emigration while reaffirming a commitment to the white supremacy in the United States.

Proceedings Of A Meeting Held At Princeton

Pamphlet describing the establishment of the New Jersey Colonization Society in 1824.

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Database

The following database gives the names and positions of the founding members of the NJCS, more than half of whom were affiliated with Princeton either as alumni, trustees, or members of the faculty.

Njcs Preview

Database listing the founding members of the NJCS.

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ReferencesPanel Toggle

[1]

Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the New Jersey Colonization Society, Held at Princeton, July 11, 1825 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Press, 1825).

[2]

Craig Wilder, Ebony and Ivy: Race Slavery and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013), 248.

[3]

Proceedings of a Meeting Held at Princeton, New Jersey, July 14, 1824, to form a Society in the State of New Jersey, to Cooperate with the American Colonization Society, (Princeton, NJ: D.A. Borrenstein, 1824).

[4]

“Article II, Constitution of the New Jersey Colonization Society,” Proceedings of a Meeting Held at Princeton, New Jersey, July 14, 1824, to form a Society in the State of New Jersey, to Cooperate with the American Colonization Society.

[5]

“The Annual Report of the Board of Managers,” Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the New Jersey Colonization Society, Held at Princeton, July 11, 1825.

[6]

“John Maclean Jr., 1845-68,” The Presidents of Princeton University, accessed November 26, 2013, https://www.princeton.edu/pub/presidents/maclean/.

[7]

General Catalogue of Princeton University: 1746-1906 (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1908), 28.

[8]

Ibid.

[9]

Inventory, John Maclean, Sr., 1814, John Maclean, Jr. Papers, Box 4, Folder 11, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

[10]

Proceedings of a Meeting Held at Princeton, New Jersey, July 14, 1824, to form a Society in the State of New Jersey, to Cooperate with the American Colonization Society, 39.

[11]

New Jersey Colonization Society treasurers report, Noah Fletcher to John Maclean, March 19, 1849; letter from Maclean to an undisclosed recipient, October 28, 1847, both in Office of the President Records: Jonathan Dickinson to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, Box 23, Folder 6, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

[12]

General Catalogue of Princeton University: 1746-1906, 113.

[13]

“James Carnahan, 1823-54,” The Presidents of Princeton University, accessed November 26, 2013, https://www.princeton.edu/pub/presidents/carnahan/.

[14]

Proceedings of a Meeting Held at Princeton, New Jersey, July 14, 1824, to form a Society in the State of New Jersey, to Cooperate with the American Colonization Society.

[15]

Proceedings of the Second Annual Meeting of the New Jersey Colonization Society Held at Princeton, New Jersey, July 10, 1826, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Press, 1826).

[16]

New Jersey Colonization Society treasurers report, Papers 3: American Colonization Society; 1820-1849, Office of the President Records: Jonathan Dickinson to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, Box 23, Folder 6, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

[17]

General Catalogue of Princeton University: 1746-1906, 29.

[18]

John Maclean, History of the College of New Jersey: From Its Origin in 1746 to the Commencement of 1854, Volume II, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1877), 255.

[19]

Treasurer’s Report,” Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the New Jersey Colonization Society, Held at Princeton, July 11, 1825.

[20]

Proceedings of the Second Annual Meeting of the New Jersey Colonization Society Held at Princeton, New Jersey, July 10, 1826.

[21]

General Catalogue of Princeton University: 1746-1906, 12.

[22]

Ibid., 20, 27.

[23]

Ashbel Green, Life of Ashbel Green (New York: R. Carter & Bros., 1849), 326.

[24]

“Biographical Index of Missionaries: Betsey Stockton,” Presbyterian Heritage Center, accessed February 8, 2017, http://www.phcmontreat.org/bios/Bios-Missionaries-Hawaii.htm.

[25]

Proceedings of a Meeting Held at Princeton, New Jersey, July 14, 1824, to form a Society in the State of New Jersey, to Cooperate with the American Colonization Society.

[26]

 Ibid.

[27]

Ibid.

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