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New documents showing the reparations given to slaveowners after abolition is major part of today's upper classes's wealth, sparking off new debate in reparations.

(46 Posts)
BigSpork Mon 25-Feb-13 13:09:25

Documents showing Britain's involvement in the trade of enslaved people, and mostly, the huge amounts of money that was given to slaveowner after abolition.

Tracing this money has shown that a lot of Britains' wealthy today gained their wealth through this deal where the "British government paid out £20m to compensate some 3,000 families that owned slaves for the loss of their "property" when slave-ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. This figure represented a staggering 40 per cent of the Treasury's annual spending budget and, in today's terms, calculated as wage values, equates to around £16.5bn".

Obviously nothing was given to those people who were enslaved, and most of those were forced to work as 'apprentices' for room and board for some time after abolition (only children under 6 were freed straight away). This further information has resparked off the reparation debate (if not to individuals at least more to appropriate community groups) and consideration of whose hard work the wealthy really got wealthy off of.

EldritchCleavage Mon 25-Feb-13 15:29:11

It is simply too late to pay reparations, I think. And for that reason the whole reparations debate strike me as gimmicky and even self-indulgent. Better to find other, broader ways of achieving social justice in the here and now.

timidviper Mon 25-Feb-13 15:32:34

Life is not fair and we cannot right the wrongs perpetrated many years ago. It is like this nonsense of apologising for things from many, many years ago. Society then functioned on different rules to society now as social awareness has changed.

TheChimpParadox Mon 25-Feb-13 15:37:19

Very difficult to judge what happened nearly 200 years ago by today's standards and values.

I see that Chef Annsley Harriot says in the article ' You would think the government would have given at least some money to the freed slaves who need to find homes and start new lives," he said. "It seems a bit barbaric. It's like the rich protecting the rich."

Yes by today's standards but not 200 years ago . I think its all a bit of a non argument really .

dotnet Sat 02-Mar-13 07:48:44

The buying off of the slave owners reminds me of the buying off of the doctors at the time of the setting up of the NHS. Bevin ( I think it was ) when asked how he had achieved the co-operation of the doctors, replied 'I stuffed their mouths with gold.'

A necessary evil. Without those doctors having their mouths stuffed with gold in 1947, we'd have no NHS.

p.s: I hope I've got the name of the politico in question right; also the date for the setting up of the NHS. You check if you want!

vivizone Sun 03-Mar-13 05:43:07

My people have really suffered. For what, I do not know.

Animation Sun 03-Mar-13 12:34:36

When I walked round Castle Howard (- stately home -) it was a gradual dawning and revulsion that all the wealth in there came from sugar and the slave trade. It's all still in there looking expensive and vulgar.

Animation Sun 03-Mar-13 13:00:18

...So how about clearing out Castle Howard for a start off and shipping out it's valuables to the families affected and traumatised by the slave trade.

It's presence is a complete embarrassment - like looking at stolen booty!

Solopower1 Sun 03-Mar-13 13:39:15

How interesting! But surely all of our nation's wealth comes from the nefarious deeds of our forefathers and mothers?

As far as apologies are concerned, actions speak louder than words, imo. So we need to show the people who were robbed of their freedom in the past that we are sorry and are doing everything we can to make up for it. That means actively combatting social injustices. Anything else is empty words.

Property is theft, we used to say. But isn't it?

FillyPutty Sun 03-Mar-13 14:14:23

What a lot of nonsense.

Slave trade was formerly accepted across the globe and is still common in many countries.

I find it amusing that it is invariably the evil white man who is blamed and targeted for this, and not the slave traders who sold them the slaves.

We in the West should be proud of the fact that we invented concepts such as human rights, that we led the abolition of slavery, rights for women, and so on.

Not forever beating ourselves up because of some sort of Original Sin of people that died centuries ago, and whose behaviour was then considered reasonable.

If we are going to look at history with 20/20 hindsight, it would be bizarre to look only at our own, when today there are people and national governments that don't give a fuck about human rights and are making massive profits from human misery.

The article leads with the claim that David Cameron's ancestors were among those who received generation reparations. Except of course that the article reveals:

"Mr Cameron's first cousin six times removed. Sir James, who was the son of one of Mr Cameron's great-grand-uncle's, the second Earl of Fife, was awarded £4,101, equal to more than £3m today, to compensate him for the 202 slaves he forfeited on the Grange Sugar Estate in Jamaica."

This is obviously utter bollocks. The James Duff in question lived in 1752-1839 and was the illegitimate son of another James Duff, 1729-1809. Clearly someone who was having children in the 1750s is not David Cameron's great-grand-uncle.

No doubt he is tenuously connected to this James Duff, but a connection that would go up, down and sideways across numerous generations, and certainly wouldn't make David Cameron wealthy today off £4,101.

The implication that anyone who is vaguely connected with a slave owner is damned by the connection (this rule only applies to white people), and also the implication that all the wealth of every subsequent generation is down to slave ownership, regardless of any subsequent businesses, inventions or anything else, is frankly garbage.

Why are white people the only ones ever held to these standards, whereby we can be condemned for the sins of our first cousin six times removed (if you can trust the journalist to have got this right)?

FillyPutty Sun 03-Mar-13 14:26:43

not 'generation reparations' I mean 'payments for their slaves'.

Clearly at the time, it was legal to own slaves, slaves were people's property, and at that time it was considered fair and reasonable to compensate people for having their property confiscated (I'm assuming that they paid for these slaves in the first place, from the African slave traders who sold them).

Obviously now we wouldn't compensate people, because slavery is universally reviled in the West, but at the time it was just the way of the world.

Immigration continues to be used by the wealthy for cheap labour in Britain and other countries today - the idea that slavery specifically is the proximate cause of all these profits is nonsense. The Dutch for instance used immigrant labour in the East Indies, and obviously this labour was poorly paid, bordering on slavery, but again those were prevailing conditions for poor labourers anywhere in the world, including Britain in the 19th century (no reparations being demanded from northern mill owners I assume), and despite this the VOC still made massive profits.

I'm not sure to what extent the profits of plantation owners etc. can be attributed directly to slavery as distinct from other forms of labour, which would also have been very cheap, but it's not going to have been much.

creighton Sun 03-Mar-13 16:05:52

white people were never kept as slaves in this country so it is clear that slavery was seen as wrong even 500 years ago. the exception was made for black africans where it suddenly became acceptable. the morals of today are the same as they were just that people who were 'the other' were deemed expendable and their humanity denied.

the fact that africans joined in this crime does not mean that europeans were not guilty of terrible behaviour. all the wealth in this country comes from the past exploitation of others overseas. the next time you go to tate modern/britain/liverpool think of the slaves who built it for you.

the people of the west indies are owed something by this country as they only exist because of europeans. the indigenous population was killed by europeans. we all have 'your' names. the people of the west indies were used and then abandoned. no investment in the islands was done for the benefit of the people there.

i don't find talking about slavery whether in the past or present 'amusing' like fillyputty, but then i wouldn't as my family hails from the west indies. you shouldn't dismiss the feelings people have about their past. white people trace their ancestors in the hope of finding someone rich or 'interesting' and think it is important and relevant to them today. it is not interesting or relevant for people from the colonies to speak about their past, they need to get over it.

i am not aware that anyone has asked for reparations. it seems that ainsley harriot said that it was a shame (back then) that the government made no reparation to the victims of the slave trade only the beneficiaries of it.

Trills Sun 03-Mar-13 16:20:26

If you unknowingly buy stolen goods (in a way that makes in clear that you could have had no idea that they were stolen), if the police locate the items and return them to their original owner, are you in any way compensated?

northofwestway Sun 03-Mar-13 16:20:44

Historically British and white Europeans were bought and sold as slaves by other white Europeans and others. This went on up to Norman times and there is a record of an entire Irish village being captured by pirates and sold in north Africa in the 17th century.

I have an ancestor who was a plantation owner on Barbados and also an ancestor who was a notorious slave trader. Closer to home I also have a particular ancestor who commited the most awful acts of genocide in Ireland as well as other murderous and vile ancestors.

Yes it is important to remember the past and reflect on the human price of Britain's "greatness" and the suffering of unremembered and unnamed people.

cory Sun 03-Mar-13 17:46:13

To be fair, white people were being kept as slaves in Northern Africa and the Middle East at a time when it was illegal to do so in Europe, throughout the Early Modern period and right up to the Victorian Age; British agreements with the Ottoman empire and Egypt in the late 19th century prohibited trade in black slaves but delayed the abolition of white slavery. Some white slaves were sold to buyers south of the Sahara too.

FillyPutty Sun 03-Mar-13 17:54:08

Creighton, I was born in the West Indies. I take it you don't mean I am owed something though.

I actually won a prize when I was ten for folk history, knowing about the indigenous people of the islands (who were not killed by Europeans, but by other Amerindians). I was booed by the attendant audience when presented with my prize, as I am white and they were almost entirely black.

The Caribbean islands are far wealthier than Africa, it is certainly better to be an ethnic African in the Caribbean than in Africa, on the whole, and it isn't true that no investment was done in the islands. Actually, the latter-day colonial governments tended to build more infrastructure than the post colonial local governments. The Antigua Public Library, for example, closed, temporarily, in 1974. As noted in 1988's 'A Small Place'

'Antigua use to have a good library, but in “The Earthquake” of 1974, it sustained damage. After “The Earthquake”, as the Antiguans knew it, a sign was placed out front reading: “THIS BUILDING WAS DAMAGED IN THE EARTHQUAKE OF 1974. REPAIRS ARE PENDING.”'

Despite the international ridicule in her book, and selling out the country to the crook Stamford, as of 2013, the Antigua Public Library remains incomplete. A good demonstration of the priorities of the independent Antigua.

creighton Sun 03-Mar-13 21:50:05

fillyputty it is amazing how casual you are about slavery, i guess being a white west indian you lived a charmed life being special among all those blacks.

i guess your family weren't the slaves in antigua which is why you poo poo other people's upset.

good for you for winning a prize when you were 10!

i don't care what goes on in africa, this thread is talking about the caribbean slave trade. as i said before 'we' were created by europeans and yes, the europeans did kill the natives. there is a debt to the people there. i have european blood through european 'interference' with the enslaved people in jamaica. i looked at the ucl website and found my mother's maiden name and my father's/my surname listed as slave owners who were compensated for the loss of the use of my ancestors. i suppose you haven't that is why you are so smug. maybe your white relatives handed crap out to the blacks in the west indies which makes you feel so pleased with yourself.

it must be a comedown being white in a white country now and not standing out from the crowd.

FillyPutty Sun 03-Mar-13 22:27:12

I'm not sure if you could trace my family back very far; they came from Germany as I understand it (not really sure why), and were poor and uneducated, but I don't choose to define my life by it today.

If you go back enough generations everyone has slaves as ancestors.

There are no slaves in Antigua today, the slave trade in the Caribbean ended a long time ago. If you want to keep it going, that's really up to you, and if you want to make bitter posts about being white being a comedown, again, feel free.

Perhaps you should fly to Banjul or wherever your ancestors hail from and tell them that you found out that ten generations ago one of your ancestors was enslaved following a tribal war and sold to Europeans, and they owe you reparations. I'd like to know how you get on.

hmc Sun 03-Mar-13 22:34:52

The slave trade although heinous in the extreme was generations ago - I am more bothered by our recent history; currently reading Caroline Elkins Pulitzer prize winning 'Britains Gulag' about our indefensible treatment of the Kenyan Kikuya people during the 1950s suppression of the Mau Mau. Pretty horrifying considering how it was only 60 years ago

creighton Sun 03-Mar-13 22:36:07

your family left germany to go to a country full of poor blacks to have an advantage over them. in the same way that white people emigrated to south africa and zimbabwe until recently.

i wasn't aware that any one asked for slavery to continue up to now. you need to read posts before you comment on them. i did sneer at you being white in the west indies as you were so full of yourself being surrounded by a sea of blacks in antigua and how jealous they obviously were of you and the little prize that you are still mentioning!

i don't need to fly anywhere. my family were used by europeans for 400 years, that leaves me room to speak to europeans if i think i want to.

you are just another spoilt white person sneering at the suffering of the blacks in the west indies. the repercussions are stil being felt today but you don't care, you are white and can move with impunity around the world.

hmc Sun 03-Mar-13 22:40:54

Absolutely Creighton, the history of Empire is all about exploitation and suppression on the indigenous people. It's irredeemably bad. However, I don't feel any personal guilt or responsibility - it wasn't me. I wouldnt feel any guilt if my ancestors were implicated either. The point is to learn from the sins of our forebears, do much better in future and not to self flagellate

hmc Sun 03-Mar-13 22:43:43

And don't blanket blame 'white' people. It isn't constructive

creighton Sun 03-Mar-13 22:48:35

but hmc, when is the cut off for historic events/eras to be considered as having current importance? will people stop caring about britain's actions in kenya in the next 20 or 50 years? how do people know when to stop caring?

anyway, the report was written and published by university college in london, not the university of the west indies and showed that a full range of middle class people around britain petitioned for compensation not just large companies and landowners.

creighton Sun 03-Mar-13 22:54:41

i don't blanket blame white people but people in this country are proud of the 'empire' without wanting to take account of the sustained violence used to create it and the resources taken out of these countries and from the people to line the pockets of people in britain.

it is said that liverpool has been 'dying' since the end of the slave trade as its existence as a major port came directly and only from the slave trade. it barely existed before the trade. people don't speak about that side of the empire.

i do object to europeans trying to push the blame for slavery onto the africans and thus absolving themselves of responsibility for their own actions over several centuries. the people in the west indies/americas who were abused get forgotten about.

hmc Sun 03-Mar-13 22:55:51

I don't know Creighton, I honestly don't - thats a valid question. Yes I agree that the west has a continuing responsibility but I don't know how that should be discharged.

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