Early American Faith: Sophronia Farrington, Missionary to Liberia

Presbyterian minister Robert Finley founded the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States in 1816, convinced that free black people would never be able to fully integrate into American society.  Instead, they would be returned to the “land of their fathers” following manumission. One of the most distinguished members of the society’s founders was Kentucky Congressman Henry Clay who, unlike his fellow Southerners, believed slavery to be a drag on the South’s economy.  Attended by other influential men such as Daniel Webster and John Randolph, the first meeting was held on December 21, 1816 in Washington, D.C.  These men had a goal in mind of ultimately ending slavery by sending free persons of color to Africa, although some of the slave owners like John Randolph were more outspoken about their views.  To Randolph, free blacks were “promoters of mischief.”1 The group, comprised of both slave owners and early abolitionists, were all of the same opinion as Finley:  there was no way for free blacks to integrate fully into American society.  The newly formed society continued to meet over the course of several days and on January 1, 1817 elected its first slate of officers.  George Washington’s nephew, Bushrod Washington, was chosen as president.  Thirteen vice presidents, including Clay and Finley, were joined by a roster of managers, the most prominent being Francis Scott Key.  The first order of business would be presenting their case to Congress. The federal government consented to the provision of funding for the society, assisting in the purchase of land along the coast of West Africa which would eventually...