Speech by George Canning

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The Last Man, Edited by Steven E. Jones

[from a speech in parliament by George Canning, 16 March 1824]


[On the topic of the abolition of slavery:] . . . To attempt to shorten the road between desire and attainment is nine times out of ten to go astray, and to miss the wished-for object altogether. I am fully persuaded that freedom, when acquired under the regulations prescribed by government, will be a more delightful as well as a more safe and stable possession than if it were bestowed by a sudden acclamation.

In dealing with the negro, Sir, we must remember that we are dealing with a being possessing the form and strength of a man, but the intellect only of a child. To turn him loose in the manhood of his physical strength, in the maturity of his physical passions, but in the infancy of his uninstructed reason, would be to raise up a creature resembling the splendid fiction of a recent romance; the hero of which constructs a human form, with all the corporeal capabilities of man, and with the thews and sinews of a giant; but being unable to impart to the work of his hands a perception of right and wrong, he finds too late that he has only created a more than mortal power of doing mischief, and himself recoils from the monster which he has made.

Such would be the effect of a sudden emancipation, before the negro was prepared for the enjoyment of well-regulated liberty. I, therefore, Sir, would proceed gradually, because I would proceed safely. . . .

Published @ RC

October 1997