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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

An amendment in fact calling for immediate abolition


Lord Stanley, who had joined

the Reform Ministry as Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, had since that time been moved to the higher position of Colonial Secretary, and to him was appropriately confided the task of introducing the measures which the Government had determined to take. The Lord Stanley of those days was in after years the Earl of Derby, whom some of us can still call to mind as one of the most brilliant orators in the House of Lords at a time when Brougham and Lyndhurst maintained the character of that assembly for parliamentary eloquence. Those among us who remember the eloquent Lord Derby, the Rupert of debate, remember him as a Tory Prime Minister or the Tory leader of Opposition in the House of Lords. But he began his great Parliamentary career as a Whig and as a Reformer, and he was one of the most zealous of Lord Grey's colleagues in pressing forward the great measure which was carried to success in 1832. Among those who can remember him there is only one opinion about the high order of his Parliamentary eloquence, and that opinion is that he was a worthy rival of Gladstone and of Bright. To him as Colonial Secretary was entrusted the task of bringing forward, in the House of Commons, the measures of the Government for dealing with the question of slavery in the British colonies. Stanley's speech was such a magnificent blending of reason and emotion, so close and so powerful in its arguments, so thrilling in its eloquence, that many of those who heard the speech naturally
expected that it was destined to announce a bold and a comprehensive policy. A certain feeling of disappointment came up among the abolitionists when the measures were described which the Government had resolved to submit to the House of Commons. What Stanley had to propose was not a complete measure, but a {197} series of resolutions embodying the purposes of the Government's policy. It is enough to say that the Government proposed a plan which amounted to a scheme of abolition by stages. There was to be a certain period of apprenticeship, a term of fifteen years, during which the slaves, men and women, were to continue to work for their masters as before, under conditions gradually relaxing as the slave drew nearer to the time of emancipation, and then when that hour at length arrived the slave was to be free forever. This principle, however, was not to apply to children under six years old at the time of the passing of the measure, or to any children born after that time. The idea on which the whole scheme was founded was the notion, very common at that time and since, that the sudden emancipation of any set of human beings could only tend to bewilder them, and to prevent them from making a proper use of the freedom thus abruptly thrust upon them. "The fool in the fable," said Macaulay, when dealing with a somewhat similar question, "declared that no man ought to go into the water until he had learned to swim." Lord Grey's Ministry had apparently much the same idea about the perils of emancipation. Another part of the scheme proposed that fifteen millions should be advanced by the Government as a loan to the West Indian planters in order to help them over the diminution of income which might be expected to follow any interference with the conditions of slave labor.

The resolutions put forward by the Government were regarded as highly unsatisfactory by most of the leading abolitionists. Macaulay indeed argued with all his usual eloquence and skill in favor of the principle of gradual abolition, and it is hardly necessary to say that it was not in that speech he made use of the pithy sentence which we have already quoted. Buxton proposed an amendment to the resolution, an amendment in fact calling for immediate abolition,


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