On his visit to Ghana, Prince Charles felt called upon to refer to the horrors of slavery as “the most painful chapter of Ghana’s relations with the nations of Europe, including the United Kingdom.”
“The appalling atrocity of the slave trade, and the unimaginable suffering it caused,” added HRH, “left an indelible stain on the history of our world.”
This suggests, and not for the first time, that HRH himself is a slave – to the liberal twaddle that passes for consensus in the more fashionable postcodes of London.
Yes, slavery is an awful institution that harms slaves and masters alike. If the former suffer physical pain, the latter are damaged morally and, in the long run, economically.
After all, free men work better than slaves. The desire to improve one’s lot is a greater inducement to productive labour than an overseer’s bullwhip.
Having said all that, Prince Charles’s pronouncement brands him as a slave as surely as the iron in the hands of the Virginian planter used to do.
It’s true that Britain, along with the US, Spain, Portugal, France and Holland played a shameful role in the slave trade. But their role was that of buyers.
The sellers were Africans themselves. In fact, 90 per cent of those suffering bondage in Europe and America were originally enslaved and sold to white traders by Africans themselves.
Especially active there were the slave-trading kingdoms of central and western Africa – of which the briskest trade was done by the Akan of the kingdom of Asante.
That place is no longer a kingdom, nor indeed a colony. It’s an independent republic called… Ghana.
That made it an unfortunate venue in which to preach the evils of slavery. But then of course HRH wasn’t referring to the role played by the proto-Ghanaians in enslaving masses of their own tribesmen.
He was generously assigning all of the blame to his own tribesmen, the British. The White Man’s Burden has become the White Man’s Burden of mandatory guilt.
This a gross distortion of historical facts, an attempt to bend history to ideology, which is always pernicious.
Of course slavery is shameful, and only savage brutes refuse to acknowledge this. But that’s precisely why this issue is so easy to exploit for political (or politically correct) purposes.
The American Civil War is a prime example of such dishonesty. For abolition was only the pretext for the hostilities.
True enough, the eleven Southern states seceded largely because the federal government had put obstacles in the way of spreading slavery into the newly acquired territories.
However, Lincoln and his colleagues explicitly stated on numerous occasions that they had no quarrel with slavery in the original Southern states.
Their bellicose reaction to the secession was caused not by slavery but by their in-built imperative to retain and expand the power of the central state to ride roughshod over local government. “If that would preserve the Union, I’d agree not to liberate a single slave,” Lincoln once said.
Note also that his Gettysburg Address includes not a single anti-slavery word – and in fact Lincoln dreaded the possibility that he himself might be portrayed as an abolitionist.
The potential of slavery to be inscribed on the banners of unrelated politics is lamentable, but it adds nothing to the intrinsic value of this abominable institution. So yes, slavery did leave a stain.
But an indelible one? That’s an unfortunate choice of adjective by the future head of the Church of England (provided HRH will accept that role on his accession, which in view of some of his past pronouncements isn’t a foregone conclusion).
Surely a Christian must believe that honest repentance can redeem sins. And Britain has done more than just repent.
Having become in 1807 the first country to ban the slave trade, Britain sent the Royal Navy to blockade the coast of Africa and intercept slaving ships. That effectively put an end to it by delayed action, although US slavers were allowed to run the blockade for a while (the first intimation of the special relationship?).
A Christian, which one has to believe HRH is, must also be aware of the redemptive potential of sacrificing one’s life. After all, such an act founded the faith he’ll be institutionally bound to defend.
Now thousands of British sailors died enforcing the blockade and engaging slaving convoys. Surely their blood washed off some of the ‘indelible’ stain?
The stains of past sins only become indelible when they are neither repented nor redeemed. HRH would have done much better commenting on the marks left by inhumanity on more modern countries: Germany and Russia, especially the latter.
Germany did make an honest effort to repent and atone for the diabolical horrors of the Third Reich, although her subsequent attempt to create a Fourth have undone some of the good work.
But Russia has made no such effort, quite the opposite. Her present government is actively exonerating and glorifying those who enslaved the whole country and murdered 60 million of the slaves.
That’s hardly surprising, considering that 80 per cent of Russia’s high officials come from a KGB background and still proudly pledge allegiance to history’s most murderous organisation (“There’s no such thing as ex-KGB,” said Col. Putin. “This is for life.”)
Now that stain is truly indelible, and it’s spreading wider. The stain of slavery, however, has been erased by Britain – in every sense other than the PC one.
One can’t say the same with equal certainty about most of the erstwhile slave kingdoms of Africa, including Ghana, whose citizens aren’t invariably treated as free men and women.
Do let’s encourage them to redeem their sins too, while casting aside the leg irons of intellectual slavery. I do hope HRH frees himself from it before his accession – while praying for this event to be delayed for a very long time.