Saturday, March 24, 2007

Slavery Days

Two anniversaries. Niether of which Mr or Ms Average gives a hoot about, to be honest.

The 50th anniversary of what was then the European Econonic Community, or 'Common Market'. Even the BBC can't really pretend enthusiasm, though they're doing their best ('The story is that Brussels is forcing Britain to give up its beloved imperial measurements - ounces, pounds and stones, feet and inches, miles and acres, and others. Is it true ? Well, yes, but it doesn't matter.')

The other - the anniversary of the 1807 decision to make the slave trade illegal, something which should be a cause for celebration. For, as David Conway at Civitas writes :


Rightly understood, what the occasion commemorates has the potential to promote, among the diverse citizens of this deeply fractured and divided society that Britain has now become, is a true sense of community and of their common humanity, and pride in their British citizenship.

Sadly, however, and perhaps all too predictably, in our politically correct climate, a true opportunity to promote social cohesion has been missed by the government. Indeed, more than that, it has chosen to mark the occasion in a woefully tendentious way that distorts the event and its significance, and makes of the occasion something divisive, indeed, positively racist.

For what the government has chosen to do in the official literature it has produced about the bicentenary is to focus solely on the British transatlantic slave trade that ended on 25 March 1807 by being made illegal. It presents that trade as a prime case of racism on the part of whites towards blacks, going out of its way to minimise the role white British Christians had in ending the slave trade.


The government in the post 7/7 world have rightly placed more emphasis on what unites Britons than on what divides them. But at an anniversary like this all the old liberal guilt kicks in. Remember, these people were at university in the 60s/70s/80s. George Lindo is still in prison, Linton Kwesi Johnson on the stereo, Blair Peach has just been martyred. Slavery is a bad thing that whites do to blacks. The fact that slavery had been a world-wide institution from antiquity, that all races and nations practised it and all at one time or other provided slaves (the name itself comes from the (white) Slavs), and that a unique British contribution to world history was to have kicked off (and robustly enforced with what was then the world's strongest Navy) the world-wide abolition of 'the peculiar institution' - off the radar.



This was a missed opportunity by the government. What it could and should have said about the event being commemorated, something that would have fostered social cohesion rather than resentment and feelings of victimhood, was just how ubiquitous slavery was in Africa at the time it became opened up to Europeans in the early sixteenth century; also how deeply implicated both Africans and Arabs were in its practice in Africa; and just how crucial and instrumental was the role Britain played in putting an end to slavery on that continent, in so far as an end to it has been put there, which, sadly, is less than complete.

To have dwelt on these aspects of the event whose anniversary is being commemorated would have made, or could, have been used to make, all Britain’s citizens appreciate just what a great country they are citizens of and how glad and appreciative they should feel to be citizens of it. Instead, what we have got is the white British being portrayed as villains, or beneficiaries of villainy, and black and other least well-off ethnic minorities here being portrayed as victims, or as suffering from the legacy of slavery, which is a divisive distortion of the truth.


The African slave trade was - and still is - a bad thing. But it is reasonable to suppose that some good came out of the evil. David Conway finishes with a quote from Keith Richburg, who echoes the comment of Muhammad Ali on his return from Zaire - 'Thank God my grandpappy got on that boat !'


Links :

Daily Mail article about Wilberforce's forgotten colleague Thomas Clarkson.
James Ramsay.
Race and Slavery In The Middle East.

18 comments:

Voyager said...

What the Govt should do is point out that in 1827 the penalty for slaving was DEATH.

That the Royal Navy enforced anti-slaving and it was 1865 before the USA got around to things and 1888 before Brasil did despite the capital Rio de Janeiro being blockaded by the Royal Navy.......though the coffee planters used Italians as indentured slaves into the 1930s

Martin said...

Laban,

I keep waiting for someone to apologise to me for Cromwell turfing my family out of Fermanagh and into Mayo.

Hello, Tony? Gordon?

dearieme said...

Slavery is cheapened if you compare it to indentured labour (or to serfdom).

Foxy Brown said...

This commemoration business and the associated events such the Walk of Witness by the Church of England, in their hairshirts of white liberal guilt, is from my point of view very embarrassing (not to mention disturbing). It's all playing into the "Oh how we've suffered and have been oppressed for the past 400 years," culture of victimhood.

The fact that some of my ancestors were once slaves has no impact on my day-to-day life. Two Shags Prezzer wants to introduce a 'Slavery Remembrance Day, what the hell is that about?!

Foxy Brown said...

Laban,

Thanks for the link to 'Issues & Views,' website. I'll probably spend much of the rest of today perusing its contents.

Anonymous said...

By upbringing and by sympathy I'm a Roman Catholic. (The Church has sort of disappeared itself, unfortunately)...SO...
I'd like a really L - O - N - G apology from Blair, QEII, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Duke of Westminster, the SPCK, the GRAND Master of the GRAND Lodge OF ENGLAND, the Bank of England, the complete membership of the Commons and Lords, the shade of Cecil Rhodes whose colonial legacy has ruined us, the ghost of Enoch Powell for his absurd claim that 1688 was a GOOD THING, all the rag, tag and bobtail of the C.of E, (rural deans,priestesses, archdeacons, curates, especially the ones that wear lacy surplices and birettas and lisp and genuflect), for the ENGLISH REFORMATION.

If they can bring forward ONE good result that flowed from that centuries-long orgy of destruction that almost completely did away with our English system of justice, our social structures, organic religious life, our secular culture, our learning, architecture, music, painting, embroidery, philosophy, our farming wealth, our cultured classes, that pauperised so many of us lower classes that martyred some of the bravest and best of our people from our nobles to our farmworkers, and turned so many of the rest into time-serving cowards and compromisers, that imported foreign mercenaries (under Henry VIII and then, to finish the job, under William of Orange) and then placed our governers under the influence of murderous traitors like the sodomite Titus Oates and his spiritual heirs who still plague us -

if, I say, they can bring forward ONE well-supported claim that this or that effect of the Reformation offsets the destruction and slaughter - well, I'll withdraw my request (yes, it's only a request...)

BUT even if my simple request is granted, even if the assorted crew of bishops and PMs and lords temporal and burgesses and money-lenders all process barefoot towards Tyburn, wrapped in sackcloth, loaded with chains, dusted with ashes and singing the Seven Penitential Psalms in Latin, WHAT GOOD WOULD IT ALL DO?

Will Fisher, More, Campion, and Southwell rise again? Will we all take to greeting neighbours manfully in the street, (as we recognize them and know the guilds they belong to and the churches they worship in) instead of avoiding eye contact and hugging the wall in suspicion? Will our money supply function simply and honestly without the burden of usury and excessive taxation? Will we have good music and fine poetry again? Will we have a proper police force? Will we get our common lands back? Will we be "a living nation" lifted up as "a single sword" to the Almighty, as Chesterton wished?

Will our monarchs do what they are meant to do and defend the poor against the depredations of the rich?

NO OF COURSE NOT. The good times will not come again for our unhappy, betrayed and wrecked wrecked nation. Nothing would please me more than to see a weeping Rowan Williams being scourged at the tomb of martyred Oliver Plunkett, or partyboy Prescott being stripped (no, yuk, leave that out),and flogged in contrition before the statue of Cromwell that disgraces Westminster, he and that effigy later to be cast into the Thames amid the jeers of the happy mob (I wonder which would make the larger splash), but what good would all this ritualised penance do?
Only feed the egos of the ostentatiously self-immolated victims, as do all apologies for things that no living person is responsible for,
There are thousands of sex-slaves in the good old UK whose plight is apparently being ignored lest the spotlight of public attention be focussed too clearly on the dark skinned aspect of the controllers of the trade of prostitution, or the public ear be attuned too sensitively to the broken English the paler pimps ones employ...let us stop bothering about the past, and turn our energies to the task of righting the wrongs of today... Thousands of unhappy folk who go about in fear, realising that in their neighbourhood, on their bus or train THEY, the true natives of this land, are now a minority, outnumbered by a huge crowd who care nothing for the indigenous cust
SO, granted that, had the Reformation not occurred and that two of its actual consequences, the English Slave-Trade and the Irish potato famine, had never taken place, I still won't DEMAND an apology, only REQUEST one in a muted whisper. It wouldn't do one IOTA of good if it came, it wouldn't right one wrong.
Spend your energies on something that would have a beneficial effect for us today.
Don't even bother (you weren't going to anyway, were you?) about politely asking the Turks and Moors and Arabs to apologise for the huge WHITE slave-trade they drove for centuries...or the white criminals (often poor starving poachers, figures of shining virtue when compared to the thieves that comprise today's kleptocratic government)who were forcibly enslaved by HM Govt. and sent off to Australia or the West Indies "some chained to a harrow, and some chained to a plough" as the old song puts it.
"...We are the people of England that have not spoken yet." (G.K.C., again)

Anonymous said...

White liberals are in an arms race of self-abasement:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6491539.stm

This fool has "immersed himself" in only one half of the story - he has conveniently ignored the role of Islam and the slavery of whites.

The BBC is whipping itself up into hysteria over this issue. I can't wait until 2008 when they no longer have the excuse of the bicentenary.

Ross F said...

This piece by Joseph 'All Whites Are Racist' Harker is good for an unintentional laugh:
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/joseph_harker/2007/03/remember_apologise_reparate_co.html

archytas said...

The fact that slavery had been a world-wide institution from antiquity, that all races and nations practised it and all at one time or other provided slaves (the name itself comes from the (white) Slavs), and that a unique British contribution to world history was to have kicked off (and robustly enforced with what was then the world's strongest Navy) the world-wide abolition of 'the peculiar institution' - off the radar.

Counterexamples abound: Denmark, 1792; (Upper) Canada 1793 (amusingly enough, it was still, then, a British colony). The universality claim is undersupported, and plausible only if one equivocates between chattel slavery and other forms of bonded labour. It is, anyway, irrelevant to the question of British responsibility: from the fact, even if it were a fact, that everybody else was doing it, it wouldn't follow that it was OK for Brits to enslave others. It is entirely unclear why we should think more of those who, having experienced slavery and emancipation, subsequently enslave others.

The government in the post 7/7 world have rightly placed more emphasis on what unites Britons than on what divides them.

National unity is an instrumental good; it can, and ought to be, overriden by non-instrumental ones.

What the Govt should do is point out that in 1827 the penalty for slaving was DEATH.

Quite. This may be why the Act was not seriously enforced against American, or America-bound, slavers. Also, a fair few of the slaves from intercepted ships ended up in British hands (notably, in the Sierra Leone). They were, shall we say, put to work.

Slavery is a bad thing that whites do to blacks.

For the last four hundred years, very, very unfortunately, this has been overwhelmingly true.

The mocking of the Bishop of Liverpool really is beneath contempt.

Anonymous said...

"Slavery is a bad thing that whites do to blacks.

For the last four hundred years, very, very unfortunately, this has been overwhelmingly true.

The mocking of the Bishop of Liverpool really is beneath contempt."

archytas 3:54 AM

Ha, ha, ha. Anyone who gets upset at the mocking of a bishop is REALLY beneath contempt.
Maybe the Govt should point out that Britain was the first country in history to try and end the global trade in slaves.
Britain's immans and muslim leaders should apologize to British citizens (white and black) for islam's ignoble role in the slave trade. A million whites taken from Europe to North Africa & the Middle East and 10 - 15 million blacks taken from Africa. Strangely enough the descendents of blacks taken by whites to the Americas number in the tens of millions - where are the descendents of the blacks taken to islamic countries ?

Laban said...

I'm generally a fan of James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool. But on this one I mock. I mock again. Thrice mock I.

TDK said...

It is, anyway, irrelevant to the question of British responsibility: from the fact, even if it were a fact, that everybody else was doing it, it wouldn't follow that it was OK for Brits to enslave others. It is entirely unclear why we should think more of those who, having experienced slavery and emancipation, subsequently enslave others.

I don't see people here denying responsibility, but I do see people making a case that if there is a British exceptionalism, then it lies not in taking part in slavery but in doing what it could to abolish it.

I have no objection whatsoever to complaining about Western involvement in the slave trade. However, I do complain about the fact that certain facts are glossed over or forgotten. In particular, the vast majority of black British children are descended from persons enslaved by black people, not white.

Let me ask you a question. What do you think is more likely to help national cohesion and increase black self esteem?

A. Telling black people that their past was one long catalogue of victim hood perpetrated solely by whites against blacks

B. Telling black people that they live in a country that was amongst the first to make a serious attempt to end the trade throughout the world.

I can't personally understand how telling black people that they are perpetual victims will ever yield any results except resignation and resentment. Kind of like we see in fact.

John said...

dearieme said...

Slavery is cheapened if you compare it to indentured labour (or to serfdom).


Possibly, but most anti-slavery organisations and the UN regard it as slavery.

From my own experience of working in Africa, I saw indentured labour in at least the second generation working to pay off a debt created by their ancestors. I understand that the "owners" frequently claim interest on the original debt which exceeds the weekly income of the slave, making it impossible to gain freedom.

Often this practice is illegal or semi-legal, which aids the result that the practice is enforced in the traditional way using the threat of violence or other punishments to prevent absconding or misbehaviour.

So whilst I accept your definitional point, I think the distinction is not so clear cut in practice.

dearieme said...

"most anti-slavery organisations and the UN regard it as slavery": well, if the UN says so, I doubt it even more strongly.
"I saw indentured labour in at least the second generation" : clearly that isn't indentured labour as the term is used in British history, since the debt isn't the second generation's. If you mean that slavery in Africa is sometimes euphemistically referred to as indentured labour, then fair enough - you'll know more about that than I do. But we should refuse to use the euphemism. "Indentured labour" in our history often referred to Britons going to the North American colonies and being indentured for an agreed number of years until their debts were defrayed. Not a status in life that I'd aspire to, but a huge difference from the status of the slaves taken there from Africa.

Anonymous said...

Why should bishops be above mockery, especially when they make a fool of themselves? What special properties do bishops have which wins them immune?

recovering liberal said...

Anonymous asks at 5.46

“Strangely enough the descendents of blacks taken by whites to the Americas number in the tens of millions - where are the descendents of the blacks taken to islamic countries ?”

I have often wondered this. The answer was to be found today on Worricker on Sunday on Radio 5 Live. http://www.bbc.co.uk/fivelive/programmes/worricker.shtml in one of the most unintentionally funny interviews I have heard. Listen in at about 43 mins.

BBC – What forms of slavery took away their names?
Anthony Beaver – Well in terms of the Arab slave trade they did worse than this. 90% died from castration.
BBC - I did not ask you that. I asked about the name
AB – Well yes. All slaves had their names taken away, back to Roman times
BBC – OK very good.

Listen to it. It’s informative on many levels.

JohnM said...

But we should refuse to use the euphemism. "Indentured labour" in our history often referred to Britons going to the North American colonies and being indentured for an agreed number of years until their debts were defrayed.

I would agree with you that the redefinition of terminology usually by the left is lamentable

verity said...

But we should refuse to use the euphemism. "Indentured labour" in our history often referred to Britons going to the North American colonies and being indentured for an agreed number of years until their debts were defrayed.

Recovering Liberal and John - Agreed. Indentured labour in Britain was, for the times, honourable. A man paid off his debt with his labour and was then free of that debt.

The left's redefinition of respectable and historic terms is repulsive and a criminal assault on our history.

But it works, because they infuse these redefinitions into the communist educational bodies, media bodies, broadcasting bodies (Oh! Surely not!) and other engines of the socialist state and present them as "fact".

Britain is a toxic lake. A dangerous place to be if you value your liberty. Like four million others since Blair slithered under the door of No 10, I am so glad I've gone. And does it hurt to be disconnected from my own society in a foreign land? Yes! Of course it does!

But it hurt more to be disconnected from society and history in my own, my native, land.