Thursday, May 11, 2006

Apologise for slavery

A little while ago (I've only just got around to reading it), Chris Dillow asked whether we should apologise for slavery; he made some good and pertinent points (including who, exactly, should we apologise to?).
Should the city of Bristol apologize for its contribution to the slave trade?

Well, the quick and easy answer would be "yes" as long as the black community thanks the British for being instrumental in ending the slave trade.
Following the work of campaigners in the United Kingdom, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed by Parliament on March 25, 1807. The act imposed a fine of £100 for every slave found aboard a British ship. The intention was to entirely outlaw the slave trade within the whole British Empire.

The Slavery Abolition Act, passed on August 23, 1833, outlawed slavery itself in the British colonies. On August 1, 1834 all slaves in the British Empire were emancipated, but still indentured to their former owners in an apprenticeship system which was finally abolished in 1838.

It also raises the fascinating question of whether black tribes, without whose active complicity the slave trade could never have flourished, should also apologise for slavery. [Emphasis mine—DK]
The transatlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th century, when the largest number of slaves were captured on raiding expeditions into the interior of West Africa. These expeditions were typically carried out by coastal African kingdoms through more formal trade agreements with European traders or by slave raiding parties through more informal bounty agreements with European traders.

It seems only fair...

UPDATE: The Longrider makes many of the same points as I did.
So, should we apologise? I’ve made my position clear. Who should apologise and who should receive it? Why should a twenty first century population apologise for something that happened two hundred years before they were born and therefore cannot have any responsibility for? There is also rank hypocrisy here that stinks like a slave ship. The Bristol slavers did not act alone. Their slaves were rounded up and sold to them by Africans. Africa is as responsible for this reprehensible trade in human misery as the Europeans who shipped them across the Atlantic. Unlike Europe, though, Africa is still doing it.

For heaven's sake, LR, you can't expect the Africans to apologise for the slave trade! As we all know, Africans are all, at some level, Victims of the evil colonial Whities: before we arrived, they were all Noble Savages. Yes, even Queen Ranavalona. Still, it's a very nicely written article: go and read it all.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I was unable to watch the sanctimonious outpouring of utter hypocrisy on the local BBC yesterday without popping a blood vessel or two. These people make me sick. Do something about slavery today, not something that happened centuries ago. Bastards!

neil craig said...

Indeed. Taken seriously this would involve Nigerians paying large amounts of money they don't have to US Blacks for selling them into their present povery. Meanwhile US blacks are 20%-40% white, usually offspring of their masters. Thus they would have to pay reparations to themselves.

Slavers deserve garotting (& I include our KLA allies who are kidnapping schoolgirls off the streets of Kosovo for use here, as well as the western politicians who put them in power knowing what they were) but it should stop at the 1st generation.

Anonymous said...

For heaven's sake, LR, you can't expect the Africans to apologise for the slave trade! As we all know, Africans are all, at some level, Victims of the evil colonial Whities:

Well, of course. My tongue was planted firmly in my cheek when writing such a suggestion. However, there is a degree of satisfaction to be gained in pointing out the arrant hypocrisy.

Incidentally, the debate voted in favour of an apology, whereas the wider public in a phone-in poll voted 91.7% against. Interesting, no?

Devil's Kitchen said...

Interesting, yes. Surprising, no.



AntiCitizenOne said...


Consider the following sequence of cases... and imagine it is about you.

1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master's whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.

2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.

5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three- sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.

6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the _vast_ range of their powers.

8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happenned; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)

9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.

The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?"

- From "Anarchy, State, Utopia" by Robert Nozick, p.290-292 (1974).

The Moai said...

The Celts are due an apology from the Italians for displacing them when Julius Caesar invaded in 55BC. Is the UK due an apology from the City of Boston for funding the IRA for so many years? Is Cornwall due an apology from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya for this? Tony was happy to apologise for this, but what about this, you mendacious, immoral b*stard?

I'm waiting....

Sorry. Really should rant on my own blog.

The Moai said...

I meant Tony Blair was a 'mendacious, immoral b*stard?', not you, DK.

Fidothedog said...

As mentioned by the moai, slavers from northern Africa - the Barbary coast as it was - raided many parts of Europe going as far as Ireland and even Iceland on one occasion for slaves.

Yet nothing seems to be said either about the fact that many peoples in Africa made quite a lot out of working in the slave trade. Apologise not a chance, another case of typical lefty new age tree hugging guilt complex rubbish.

Anonymous said...

Good post DK

God, I hate this trawl through history with a damp sponge. I feel sorry for those shell shoked soldiers; I feel sorry for Oscar Wilde in Reading Goal; I feel sorry for all those people put in concentration camps...I mean the ones the BRITISH invented in the Boar War.

Stuff and nonesense.

The governemnt could however be apologising for some contempory events like the outings of Prescott's chipolata


Anonymous said...

Personally, don't feel any need to apologise for slavery. My antecedents were most likely sitting in the dark down a mine with a door on a string. Slaves. Some were aged as young as 4, working 12 hour shifts. How did they benefit?

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