”The Emancipation of Slaves” (Tocqueville, 1843)

Ur Alexis de Tocqueville, Writings on Empire and Slavery (Johns Hopkins, 2001), s. 199.

We are often unjust toward our times. Our fathers saw such extraordinary things that in comparison with their accomplishments, all those of our contemporaries seem commonplace. Still, the world today offers some great spectacles that would astonish us if we were not weary and distracted.

Sixty years ago, if the foremost maritime and colonial nation of the globe had suddenly declared that slavery would disappear from its vast domains: what shouts of surprise and admiration would have broken out everywhere! With what concerned and passionate curiosity the eyes of civilized Europe would have followed the development of that immense enterprise! What fears and hopes would have filled every heart!

This bold and remarkable task has just been undertaken and completed before our eyes. We have seen something unprecedented in history: slavery abolished, not by the desperate effort of the slave, but by the enlightened will of the master; not gradually . . . but completely. [. . .] Just a few years were enough to accomplish something that Christianity itself could only do over a great number of centuries. Open the annals of all peoples, and I doubt you will find anything finer or more extraordinary.


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