Approaching next year's 200th anniversary of the abolition of involvement in the slave trade by British citizens or ships, Tony Bliar is making a statement of sorrow - but not apology - whilst some people are calling for "compensation." Compensation to whom? By whom? And on what principle? Frankly most of the comments made stem from a deep ignorance of the facts of the slave trade. Above all, many commentators ignore the fact that it was a slave TRADE. It was a three legged trade, that began in the 16th century, involving many European nations and many African nations.
It worked like this: European ships took manufactured goods to African shores. There they swapped their goods for slaves. The sellers were local African chiefs who captured their own subjects and raided nearby areas to provide their human merchandise. The slaves were shipped in the most appalling conditions to the Americas - South, Central, North, and the West Indies - where they were swapped for agricultural products such as sugar and cotton. These were then shipped back to Europe where they were sold to give the ship captains and owners vast profits. The slaves who had survived the ocean journey worked in the plantations to provide yet more trade goods.
It should be noted that in very few cases did the white Europeans carry out the dirty work of capturing the slaves. There was a very simple reason for this - malaria. The Europeans never ventured far inland from their forts on the coastline, because their chances of survival were very low. Only the sea breezes kept the disease carrying mosquitos away (though at the time they didn't know of the insects' role). Until the discovery of quinine in the latter part of the 19th century, only Africans had the built-up immunity to survive inland. Among African kingdoms the slave trade was very big business, sending raiding parties far inland.
This was best illustrated by the one kingdom, Kongo, which tried to keep itself free from it. Situated in the north of what is now Angola, the king and other chiefs refused to engage in the trade or to allow other neighbouring kingdoms to capture its people. After resisting great pressure from Europeans and neighbours, it was finally invaded and extinguished as a separate entity by all its (black African) neighbours.
Without the active and enthusiastic participation of many Africans, there would have been no slave trade. Britain in 1807 became the first European nation to abolish participation by its citizens in the slave trade. In 1833 it abolished slavery itself throughout the Empire, and throughout the 19th century the Royal Navy was very effective in preventing the cross Atlantic trade by other nations.
The USA was 30 years behind Britain in abolishing slavery. However, the trading of African slaves to Arab nations continued and it was this that David Livingstone campaigned against. This northward trade across the Sahara and through Dar-es-Salaam continued well into the 20th century. Indeed some claim that it still continues. So Great Britain was the first nation - in Europe and Africa - to quit the slave trade and by example and pressure it led the others to quit. Interestingly, black tax-payers living in Britain today are, in the case of those whose ancestry is via the West Indies, the descendants of the slaves but, in the case of those whose ancestry is directly from Africa, some are descendants of the slave raiders who sold their fellow countrymen and women to the European merchants.
Government compensation always comes from taxpayers, so who should be taxed to pay whom? And why? The very silly idea of compensation is based on the myth that slavery was entirely a white upon black atrocity.
Peter Smith is a prolific writer on British and international current affairs, religion, science, history, and many other subjects. He is a staunch defender of New Testament Christianity and of Free Speech. More of his writing can be seen at http://bbctodayforum.co.uk and http://maxyoursuccess.com