a review of a review

the remarks of George Canning to Parliament on 16 March 1824, with commentary 

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letter the fourth

chapter the fourth

images of the creature

poetry explication: thomas moore

contemporary authorship: m. a. lamb

shelley's letters 

minor character analysis

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existentialism: jean paul sartre 

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        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 full 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 of only 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 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 a well-regulared liberty. I, therefore, Sir, would proceed gradually because I would proceed safely... .

 George Canning


        george canning’s remarks in parliament (16 march 1824) related the power and intelligence of the negro to those of the creature early in his development. this speech, which warned against a sudden grant of complete freedom to the negro, outlines the way in which that race may reflect some of the same dangerous qualities brandished by frankenstein’s creation, given that each of those parties, according to canning, possess “the form and strength of a man, but the intellect of only a child” (395). there are several troubling notions in this speech, including a mild perversion of the details of the novel to which canning draws his comparison. if canning’s point is taken for its spirit and not its letter, he can be understood to suggest that it would be irresponsible for any government to create a situation in which people have total power over a situation they cannot control and that may allow them to hurt someone, including themselves: in the west indies, a moderate, paced dispersal of freedom seems justified and indeed necessary.
        however, it must be noted—in the interest of fairness and accuracy—that the case of the creature and the case of the slave population are quite different. victor had to create the creature in order for it to exist at all, and his fault came when he failed to educate and temper the thing he had brought into the world. canning’s parallel about the negro falls short, here: the slave situation was created, but before that, the current slaves had lived in freedom. it is not as if canning has entered a debate about whether or not to release a group that had always been enslaved. therefore, that population has been taken from a natural state of freedom, put into shackles, and then been scrutinized for its merits to be freed; it is not for the british government to decide whether or not a naturally autonomous person or race should be free or not. additionally, a detailed infrastructure with which the negro population is familiar has already been set up, and this system will aid in the governance of the newly freed slaves, just as it does for those who currently enjoy freedom. this sort of familiarity would help to ensure that the newly assimilated citizens of the west indies would be able to adjust more fluidly and with less violence and disorder than the creature was able to do.