When they got back to Andover, Mills, aided by Smith, wrote an account of their trip. Report of a Missionary Tour through That Part of the United States Which Lies West of the Allegany Mountains was published in 1815. Afterwards, Smith continued to work as a home missionary, assigned to Natchez and then Louisville, where he died in 1823. As for Mills, he too did more home missionary work, but then in 1818 he finally got sent overseas, by the American Colonization Society. Founded in 1816 by Presbyterian minister Robert Finley (1772-1817), with an assist by Mills among others, the organization stated as its aim the establishment of a colony in Africa where free blacks could be sent. Mills had had the idea that a thinly settled place in our own American West might work as an alternative to Africa. in the end, though, the Society envisioned somewhere on Africa's west coast as the better choice. And in 1818, Mills and Ebenezer Burgess (A.T.S. class of 1814) were charged by the Society with going there to find a suitable place to buy, with the funds coming from the sale of memberships.
The two embarked on February 3, 1818, for Sierra Leone. On arrival, they met up with Thomas Joiner. According Gardiner Spring's Memoir of Samuel John Mills , Joiner was "a son of a prince of some distinction," who, as a boy had been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the West Indies. The story Mills told was that Joiner was eventually "redeemed by an English captain, who knew his father," was "well educated" in England, and then "restored" to his native country. According to the memoir, Mills observed of him: "He is a man of good character and habits, and has acquired property and influence. He has just returned from England, where he left two sons for an education. He says that he shall buy a brig the next year, to import his own goods. Will not some of our American people of color be fired by this example?”
Mills didn't live long enough to find out. “The health of Mr. Mills before he left the United States was slender, having a stricture on the lungs, and a dangerous cough,” Spring wrote. And even though he was said to have felt well enough in Africa, where he and Burgess tentatively selected a place on Sherbro Island as a site suitable for the colony, he caught a bad cold on the voyage home, grew feverish, and never recovered. He died on June 16, 1818, age thirty-six, and was buried at sea.
In his recent book Persistence of Memories of Slavery and Emancipation in Historical Andover, Edward L. Bell noted that colonization schemes found common cause among "African American Nationalists," "American racists," "pro-segregationists," abolitionists, and missionaries, "among others.”  That includes the leadership of the A.T.S., where a Committee on Colonization was formed in 1823. The majority of black Americans, however, were bitterly opposed to it. "Shame upon the guilty wretches that dare propose, and all that countenance such a proposition. We live here—have lived here—have a right to live here, and mean to live here," Frederick Douglass wrote in his anti-slavery newspaper, The North Star, in 1849. Nonetheless, the idea persisted, and in 1822, a place, named Liberia, had been chosen for the experiment. In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe's character George Harris, having escaped to Canada, decides to go there with this family ("wife, children, sister, and mother") after a short time in France in pursuit of education. He has heard the arguments against colonization: "You will call me an enthusiast: you will tell me that I have not well considered what I am undertaking. But I have considered, and counted the cost. I go to Liberia, not as to an Elysium of romance, but as to a field of work. I expect to work with both hands,—to work hard; to work against all sorts of difficulties and discouragements; and to work till I die. This is what I go for; and in this I am quite sure I shall not be disappointed."
Stowe herself advocated colonization; she later changed her mind. And by the time she published The Minister's Wooing in 1859, while living here in Andover, her character Dr. Hopkins was made to look foolish for supporting the scheme, one of whose ulterior purposes was the Christianization of Africa. (“If we want to get the gospel to the Africans, why not send whole shiploads of missionaries to them, and carry civilization and the arts and Christianity to Africa?”) Or was that merely a rationale? The fictional Hopkins didn't seem to give that any mind; he also believed that one day “the whole earth [would] be of one language.” But what language would that be? A widely held theory was that it would be Hebrew. The omniscient narrator of The Minister’s Wooing, no doubt speaking for Stowe, expressed a more sublime vision: “The truly good are of one language in prayer. . . There may be many tongues and many languages of men, — but the language of prayer is one by itself, in all and above all.”
1. Thomas C. Richards, Samuel J. Mills: Missionary Pathfinder, Pioneer and Promoter (Boston, New York, and Chicago: The Pilgrim Press, 1906).
2. Gardiner Spring, Memoir of Samuel John Mills (Boston: Perkins & Marvin; New York: Leavitt & J.P. Haven, 1818).
3. Edward L. Bell, Persistence of Memories of Slavery and Emancipation in Historical Andover (Boston, Shawsheen Press: 2021).
4. Frederick Douglass, "Colonization," The North Star, January 26, 1849. http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/abolitn/abar03at.html Retrieved August 8, 2022.
5. The Minister's Wooing was serialized in the Atlantic Monthly from December 1858 to December 1859. It was published in book form in 1859, first in London by Sampson Low, Son & Company, then in New York by Derby and Jackson.