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.”
As historian Craig Wilder argues in his book on slavery and higher education: “The ACS was born on campus.” 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.
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.
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.” 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.