Slavery was a jolly bad thing

Sunday, March 25, 2007 12:34 | Filed in Life, Politics

The issue of slavery has cropped up in the news at the moment (I’m against it, by the way) because it is supposedly 200 years since slavery was abolished in the UK, and again the topics of whether or not “we” should apologise for it and/or pay compensation in some shape or form.

Firstly, (according to Wikipedia, anyway) slavery was outlawed in England in 1772, on the basis that it had never been allowed in law in the first place. It was the practice of slave trading that was outlawed in 1807, and the Royal Navy was tasked with suppressing it.

Secondly, slavery is a shameful practice. And it still occurs today, with people forced into prostitution and so on. It’s wrong, it’s abhorrent and it always has been.

But I’m not sorry. As I’ve said before it wasn’t me. I didn’t keep slaves. It’s unlikely that my ancestors benefited from the slave trade. Indeed, as one of the letter-writers in saturday’s Guardian points out:

I am perplexed as to who should be doing the apologising and to whom. My ancestors had no part in the slave trade and were, in fact, treated little better than slaves.

The life of farm workers during the latter part of the 18th century and the 19th century is well documented — long hours in appalling conditions for pittance wages. The life of factory workers was even worse — consider the child workers in the mills, for example. Who is going to apologise for this?

VC Tomkinson, Sussex in The Guardian

Add on to this the conditions suffered by mine workers, shipyard workers, and basically the common working people who didn’t own land, didn’t own factories and struggled throughout their entire lives to feed their families. Why should their descendants have to apologise for slavery, when they were treated little better themselves?

No, if you want apologies these need to come from the businesses and families who made their money on the backs of the misery and hardship of others.

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22 Comments to Slavery was a jolly bad thing

  1. Richard Conyard says:

    March 26th, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Reading around the web Jack I you’re certainly not alone in your opinion.

    Whilst slavery in all forms is and was abhorrent, the whole issue of apology for me is one of complete BS. If you (any of us), personally did something that was wrong you have the right to issue an apology (and the offended can choose whether to accept that or not), however if something happens that you personally have no way of controlling, how can you apologise for it? The most that can happen is an admission of regret that it happened at all.

    Also for those campaigning for an apology, they are campaigning from an anachronistic moral standpoint. How can we hold up our hands and hold previous generations to our values and viewpoints today without living in their world? I’m sure we’d all like to think that being placed in the same circumstances, with the same choices we’d have done as we would now and speak out against slavery, however if this were the case why didn’t more people? People do not become good or bad overnight (or by 200 years), there is no hereditary rights on judging right from wrong and my great-great-great grandfather was almost certainly when all is said and done like me just a bloke. I don’t think I have the right to apologise for him, since in the same set of circumstances who is to say I would have done different – and this in the same way that in 200 years time I don’t want my descendants apologising for me over whatever acceptable practice now is deemed wrong.

  2. Karl says:

    March 28th, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Yeah I agree too – I don’t get why I should apologise for something that happened so long ago and that I had no part in.

    Personally, I would have preferred to have seen it handled as a celebration of the ending of that awful part of our history, a memorial of all those people who suffered and then an honest-to-god pledge to stamp out the pockets of modern-day slavery wherever they occur.

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    i think slavery is a cruel, horrible thing and what is the point of having slaves?,yes they do your chores but nobody thinks about what it is like to be them living in a completly different world, just imagine what it would be like if u were them, getting slit away from your family and rarely getting food.Slavery is bascially racist!!.

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