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Lower California as a Negro Home

A unique and somewhat startling proposition was broached this week by Senator Teller, at Washington–startling insomuch as it shows what class of schemes it is considered perfectly proper for our Congressional representatives to father and endorse. This scheme contemplates the appropriation of the modest sum of $50,000,000 for the purpose of enabling a negro colony to emigrate to and settle in Lower California, said sum to be bonded for a period of forty years at a low rate of interest, by which time the promoters of the scheme presume the colony will be able to refund the debt.

The matter began with a petition to Congress complaining of the injustice to which our negro population is subject under existing social conditions and laws, and asserting that the only way out of the difficulty is to give the negro population an opportunity to form an independent and self-supporting colony for itself, where its members may be at liberty to acquire wealth and work out their own social and political salvation in their own way.

The scheme is so visionary and Utopian in character that it leads one to doubt either the sanity of its projectors or the accuracy of the report as to the conditions under which it is proposed to found the colony in question.

In the first place Lower California cannot be appropriated and colonized in the off-hand and wholesome way which the originators of the scheme evidently have a childlike confidence in their ability to perform. The Mexican Government has something to say on the matter, and might possibly object to an Ethiopian influx of the dimensions which such a movement might assume.

In the second place it is a very grave and still a most doubtful question whether the arid, barren and sparsely settled peninsula stretching from San Diego to Cape San Lucas, could support, much less provide comfortable homes and the increased wealth aimed at, for a great colony such as an expenditure of $50,000,000 would necessarily imply. Scheme upon scheme has been originated during the past twenty years for the appropriation and colonization of Lower California by adventurer after adventurer. Gold mines, pearl fisheries, cattle ranches, and what not have been sprung upon the unwary all over that delectable region. Everyone remembers the outcome of the Magdalena Bay excitement. The Topolobampo farce, though enacted on the Mexican mainland at the other side of the gulf of California, was played upon in most respects similar to that of the peninsula.

Cynical persons might hint that there is a nigger in the fence–no pun intended–in the present proposition, and that someone interested in working off lands in the barren peninsula, has got to the ear of the confiding Washington negro preachers and others who are moving in the matter, and by specious representations has induced them to believe that Lower California is a land flowing with milk and honey, in short the Promised Land for the oppressed Ethiopian race.

Once let such an idea become imbued in the negro mind, its volatile and enthusiastic character is such, as has been repeatedly shown in similar movement of the past, that the exodus would not stop till most of the five millions of the race upon the continent took part in it.

What untold misery might result from such a movement as the wholesale deportation of a race not yet proved capable of self-government to an inhospitable region, the soil of which has not yet been shown to be capable of supporting its inhabitants by agricultural pursuits, it is not necessary to contemplate.

There never will be a Congress of the United States silly enough to entertain such a proposition as that of Senator Teller.

San Francisco News Letter
January 17, 1891

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