Darwin and Slavery

It is interesting to learn of Darwin’s attitude to slavery. In many ways his grandparents on both the Wedgwood and Darwin sides were instrumental in bringing about its abolition in Britain and the dominions. Slavery was only banned in Britain about the time Charles was born and it took until about the time he left on the Beagle to get full emancipation of slaves in the colonies.

Yet, when Darwin first touched down in Brazil he found the Portuguese sanctioned the legal importation of slaves from Africa. He was personally appalled and it led to a confrontation with FitzRoy who, while not condoning slavery perhaps, was less inclined than Darwin to condemn it.

The humanitarian side of Darwin he wore on his sleeve. But it would be wrong to conclude that he was an egalitarian. All men may have had equal rights in his eyes, but they were not all equal. And, in a way, I suppose in that respect he was nothing less than consistent in his personal beliefs as his scientific ones.
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