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November 26, 2006

Apologies for Slavery

I wouldn't say that I'm all that worried about Blair's apology for slavery:

'It is hard to believe that what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time,' the Prime Minister will say. 'Personally I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was - how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition, but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened and to rejoice at the different and better times we live in today.'

To say that it was inhumane and that the world is now a better place for its non-existence seems to be a simple statement of an obvious truth really.

Of course, I'd also rather like all the other people involved to make similar statements: those who captured and sold the slaves, those in the Middle East who also bought them through their own trading networks and so on. Not to do so is of course racism itself: attempting to claim that only white people have the ability or duty to act morally.

However, we then get to another question:

It was reported that Whitehall advisers had warned that a full apology could open the door to claims for reparations from the descendants of slaves.

That's another matter entirely. The basis of our legal system is that if someone has done something wrong, that the compensation should be equal to putting the claimant back into the situation enjoyed before that wrong was committed.

Which, as this old short story shows, might not bring about the result that people would want. In short, are the descendants of slaves in the US or UK better off or worse off than if their forefathers had stayed in West Africa?

November 26, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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Tony Blairs almost-apology on behalf of Britain for the slave trade, for which neither he nor other Brits alive today bear any responsibility, devalues the concept of apology and exemplifies the ignorant and ahistorical application... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 26, 2006 2:49:03 PM


A few years ago, my 5 year old daughter came home from school upset at finding out that we kept her best friend as a slave. This was part of the schools "Black History Month".
For a few weeks the class split on racial grounds as "slave owners" and "slaves" played separately. The irony was that the class contained no "Black" children; the surrogate slaves were of Bangladesh origin.

Posted by: Kit | Nov 26, 2006 11:34:53 AM

When and where are apologies due for:

8th century: Invasion of Europe by the Saracens?

13th century: The conquest of China by the Mongols who went on to capture Samarkand and Bukhara. By the mid century, they had conquered much of Russia, Central Europe, northern Iran and the Caucuses?

17th through 19th centuries: Barbary coast pirates who preyed on ships in the Mediterranean and made periodic incursions into coastal areas of northern Europe to seize Christians for slavery?

Can we Brits reclaim our lost territories in France?

Posted by: Bob B | Nov 26, 2006 12:18:12 PM

Good old Blair. Pat on the back for congratulating us all on being so much more modern than those awful people in the past. Yup, good to see that slavery is gone. Ignore any of the reports you might see in the communist-controlled media suggesting that there is any form of slavery in South America, Africa, or western Europe.

Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Nov 26, 2006 12:37:50 PM

Now how about apologising for %age slavery where you are forced to work 50% of the time for the state?

Posted by: AntiCitizenOne | Nov 26, 2006 2:42:23 PM

Blair probably hasn't apologised for that because you're not forced to do anything like that.

Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Nov 26, 2006 3:52:57 PM

Why don't I think there will be any equivalent statement form say Saudi Arabia to mark 45 years since they abolished slavery. If anywhere has a need to pay compensation it is there, since many of the slaves will still be alive.

Posted by: chris | Nov 26, 2006 7:04:11 PM

I don't mind Blair expressing his deep sorrow that slavery happened, but he shouldn't express mine. Just as Blair does, I reserve the right about when and what I express sorrow about.

Posted by: Pete | Nov 26, 2006 7:35:09 PM

You say

'Of course, I'd also rather like all the other people involved to make similar statements: those who captured and sold the slaves, those in the Middle East who also bought them through their own trading networks and so on.'

All the people who were involved in Britain's slave trade are dead. None of them will be making any statements, of sorrow or of anything else.

Any Brit alive today is no more guilty of the slave trades crimes than the descendants of the slaves themselves. Any modern day Brit who said he was glad that slavery happened would show himself to be a contemptuous person, but why not assume that any Brit making no comment at all is just as pleased the trade ended as any African from an area where slaves were taken?

Posted by: Pete | Nov 26, 2006 7:44:22 PM

I would agree to an apology and compensation
when all the African descendents of those who
captured and sold slaves agree to it.

There seems to be this racist view that anything
evil done by whites was because we're particularly evil and no one else's past stinks.

Oh but I'm sure some one will post: "No the white's made them capture their own people."... more anti-white revisionist history rubbish.

Posted by: G | Dec 31, 2006 8:41:38 PM