In August 1867, Thomas Carlyle published one of his most virulent diatribes against 'swarmery', by which he meant the trend towards democracy. The immediate inspiration for 'Shooting Niagara: and After?' was the threat of Disraeli's Reform Act, which would double the number of adult males entitled to vote, and thus, as Carlyle saw it, unleash untold 'new supplies of blockheadism, gullibility, bribability, [and] amenability to beer and balderdash': look at America, the beleaguered Sage of Chelsea argued, and its absurd Civil War, prompted by what he derisively called 'the Nigger Question':
Essentially the Nigger Question was one of the smallest; and in itself did not much concern mankind in the present time of struggles and hurries. One always rather likes the Nigger; evidently a poor blockhead with good dispositions, with affections, attachments - with a turn for Nigger Melodies, and the like - he is the only Savage of all the coloured races that doesn't die out on sight of the White Man; but can actually live beside him, and work and increase and be merry. The Almighty Maker has appointed him to be a Servant. Under penalty of Heaven's curse, neither party to this pre-appointment shall neglect or misdo his duties therein.
LRB 17 March 2011 | PDF Download