Posts Tagged ‘Antigua’

History Debunked on the White Slaves of Early Modern Scotland

June 21, 2021

This is another video from History Debunked’s Simon Webb. I’ve put up a number of his videos because they seem to contradict and refute some of the falsehoods deliberately being told about slavery and the maltreatment of Blacks in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. I’ve made it very clear that I despise Black Lives Matter, but I fully recognise the reasons behind their anger. As a community, Blacks do suffer from poor educational achievement, poverty, a lack of career opportunities, drug abuse and the violent criminality that goes with it. I know from talking to Black and Asian friends and relatives that there is real racial discrimination out there, including the threat of genuine Nazi violence. What I object to is some of the glib assertions and false history that has been added to genuine fact and the one-sided presentation of these problems. It’s simply an historical fact that slavery has existed in very many societies right across the world. It existed in Africa, and the Black slaves we acquired during the days of the transatlantic slave trade were purchased from powerful African slaving states like Dahomey, Whydah and a number of others. Black Africans were also enslaved by Muslim Arabs, Turks, as well as Indians and were exported from east Africa as far as modern Sumatra and Java. One historian of slavery has remarked that it has been so prevalent across the world, that what is remarkable is not that White Europeans practised it, but that White Europeans and Americans abolished it. But slavery is increasingly being presented as something that only White Europeans and their colonies did to Blacks.

In this video Webb talks about a form of slavery practised in Britain from the late 17th century to the end of the 18th century, which I doubt few people know about. It was the enslavement of White Scots people to work in their country’s mines and salt pans. The law, Anent Colliers and Salters, was passed in 1660 and was designed to stop shortages of labour in the coal mining and salt-making industries. The salt was produced through boiling seawater in vast pans. These were large parts of the Scots economy at the time, and the law was intended to stop workers in those industries going off and seeking gainful employment elsewhere. The law bound the miners and salters to their masters, who were given the power to beat them, whipping those who refused to work, as well as the right to sell them to other owners. They could not look for other jobs or even leave the area. In 1661 the law was extended so that the masters could forcibly conscript into their employment tramps and vagabonds. And there were harsh punishments for runaway miners. When one owner put up a mine for sale, as occasionally happened, the men were listed alongside equipment and livestock like the pit ponies. In 1701 Scotland passed what was dubbed ‘the Scots Habeas Corpus Act’, which prevented Scots from being imprisoned without cause. But it specifically excluded the workers in the above industries. In 1775 legislation was passed emancipating colliers and salters, but it applied only to new workers. It contained a ‘grandfather clause’, specifically excluding previous workers. It was only in 1799 that a law was passed freeing all miners and salt workers north of the border. He explicitly states at the end that the moral of all this was that slavery was not something that was done solely to Blacks. It was also done to Whites and continued until a few decades before the emancipation of all slaves.

As with all of his videos, I think you have to be aware of his personal bias. He seems to be a Telegraph-reading Tory, and some of what he says is incorrect. He has said that Britain never advertised for Caribbean workers, but this has been contradicted by several of the great commenters here, who remember just such appeals. In my understanding, he is wrong in what he says about the Mansfield judgement banning slavery in Britain. The judgement was issued by Lord Mansfield on a case brought before him by the Abolitionists on behalf of a slave, James Somerset. Somerset had been sold to another master, who wanted to take him abroad, which Somerset didn’t want to do. It’s like the later Dredd Scott in America. Webb claims that the judgement did not rule against slavery, only that slaves couldn’t be taken out of the country, because Mansfield had no power to pass judgement outlawing existing forms of British slavery such as that of the miners and salters.

This is wrong. In every book I read it is stated that Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery did not exist under English law. This is correct. Slavery had died out in England by the end of the 12th century as the Normans banned it. The former slaves instead became villeins, serfs. The mass of English peasants were unfree. By law they could not leave the manors on which they were settled, their property was technically that of their lords, and they had to pay a fine compensating the lord for his loss when their daughters married. In addition to working on their own plots of land, they were also required to do labour service on their lords’ demesnes. Their property reverted to their masters on their deaths, so that their widows and children had to appeal to the lord to get it back. Meanwhile, the parish priest had the rest to take the deceased peasant’s best beast, meaning his best cow, ox or bull. It’s not as severe as chattel slavery, and serfs have certain rights, which slaves don’t. But sometimes, especially in the Russia as the tsars, the distinction between serfdom and chattel slaves is a fine one. Serfdom was abolished in France during the French Revolution. Other states, like Denmark and the German states, abolished it in the decades following and during the 19th century, as did Russia under tsar Alexander II.

In school we’re taught, or given the impression, that serfdom died out because of an acute labour shortage following the death of between a third and half of the European population during the Black Death in the 14th century. In fact what happened is that the Black Death commenced a long period in which serfdom began withering away as landlords began to compete amongst each other to persuade peasants to settle on their estates and commute labour services into money rents. But the process was a long one. The last serf died in 1645, I believe. In one of her programmes in which she visits various historic towns, Dr Alice Roberts, a former female star of Time Team, medical doctor, anthropologist and Professor for the Public Engagement with Science at Birmingham university visited one of the great cities of Norfolk. She learned there about a battle in the 16th century when the local peasants revolted against attempts to turn them back into bondsmen – serfs.

Furthermore, even if slavery was formally abolished in England and serfdom had withered away, it was still customary to purchase certain types of human being. Time Team’s Tony Robinson, also known as Blackadder’s Baldrick, described the appalling conditions suffered by 18th and 19th century mill workers in his series, The Worst Jobs in History. He trembled with raw, justified outrage when he told how millowners would to workhouses and orphanages to buy the children left there to use as their workers. Wives were also seen as the property of their husbands, and the traditional form of divorce amongst British peasant and working class communities was to take them to market to sell. It happened up and down the country, including Bristol, where you could get a reproduction of an advertisement for such a sale down at the Central Library. The transportation of certain criminals also acted as a form of slavery. The Monmouth rebels in the West Country, who supported the illegitimate Duke of Monmouth against James II, if they escaped hanging by Judge Jefferies were transported to Barbados, where they were sold to the planters for sacks of sugar. Irish rebels were also treated the same way. A friend of mine at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, who was a staunch anti-slavery activist with a mixed-race African wife, told me how you could still see the former cabins occupied by the White Irish amongst those of the Black plantation labourers in Barbados and the Caribbean. The Irish cabins were patriotically decorated with shamrocks.

I think the Mansfield judgement only applied to English law. Scots law is different, because until the Act of Union in the early 18th century England and Scotland were different countries with separate parliaments and different legal systems. Since the 12th century, English law includes custom and precedent. A judgement passed on one case acts as the model for others in similar cases. Scots law is based on Roman law. As I understand, a judgement passed in one case is not automatically binding for similar cases. It can be used as the basis for a similar decision, but the judge is also free to disregard it and make his own judgement. Lord Mansfield’s judgement probably only affected English, and not Scots law. Nevertheless, it was highly influential in that during the 1820s and ’30s before the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, Black slaves in the Caribbean used it as the basis for their own efforts to gain their freedom. There were a series of slaves, like Grace James of Antigua, who had been brought to Britain, or English overseas territories like Gibraltar, by their masters. On their return home, they presented themselves to the Guardian and Protector of Slaves, the official charged with protecting the slaves from brutality and maltreatment, as free people of colour illegally held in slavery. Their owners naturally objected, claiming they were being robbed of their property. The colonial authorities appealed to the home government for guidance, and the diplomatic correspondence, as printed in the government’s blue books, included copies of the Mansfield judgement.

I also believe that the conditions for miners in the north of England was similar to those in Scotland. I think it may have been on Bargain Hunt, one of the Beeb’s early evening antique shows, or perhaps Great Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo, that they were in County Durham. The presenter was shown around the miner’s hall, the grand headquarters of the local trade union. He was told about the horrendous, oppressive conditions contained in the contract that traditionally had to be signed by every miner binding him to his master. These were only successfully fought and finally overturned thanks to union opposition in the 19th century. Which is another demonstration why we need strong, effective unions.

There was considerable sympathy for enslaved Blacks amongst working people, and particularly in Scotland. It’s been claimed that one reason for this was because of the enslavement of White, Scottish mineworkers. Thus the authorities and slave masters complained that there was too much sympathy for runaways among ordinary Scots, who were hiding and protesting them.

I think that possibly too little is known about serfdom and the traditional enslavement of Whites in Britain and Europe. Some of this might simply be due to the fact that most history is ‘history from above’, the actions of monarchs and great statesmen and politicians, rather than social history, or ‘history from below’. Another factor may well be the myth most Brits have grown up with – that Britain is the country from which freedom and good government flows. What isn’t appreciated is that every one of the freedoms we enjoy, and which are being stripped from us by the Tories, were hard won through the blood, sweat, toil and tears of ordinary folk and their champions.

It has led to a distorted view of history, the myth of ‘merrie England’ in which everything was somehow better in the old days, when lords ruled and the hoi polloi knew their place. It’s a view that the right do want to bring back. But a lack of understanding of traditional forms of British forced labour, that applied to Whites, has also contributed to the equally distorted view that slavery and forced labour is very much something that Whites inflicted on Blacks or other people of colour.

Both are wrong, and need to be fought.

George Galloway Documentary on British Fascism

March 26, 2018

Entitled ‘The Patriot Game’, and just under 27 minutes in length, this documentary British Fascism was post on YouTube on Friday. Presented by the former Labour MP, founder of the Respect Party, and now presenter with RT, George Galloway, this is a potted history of British Fascism. Some sensitive souls might want to skip some of this. This are vicious, ugly people, and the documentary includes scenes of violence where the Fascists are fighting the anti-Fascists and the police. There are also newsreel footage of the gas ovens in Nazi Germany to make a mute refutation of Martin Webster’s attempt to cast doubt on the truth of the conventional ‘narrative’ about the Holocaust.

It begins with the assassination of Jo Cox last year by Thomas Mair, and the all-too real Nazism and vicious anti-Semitism of Britain First. Not only did they want Cox dead, they also conspired to kill another female MP. From there he goes on to talk about Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists and the Battle of Cable Street. This was when Mosley and his goons attempted to march through the East End of London. They were opposed by a huge crowd of trade unionists, Communists and Jews, determined not to let them pass. Violence broke out, but the Fascists were, as Galloway says, ‘routed’.

He then goes on to the Notting Hill riots of 1961 and the murder of Conseil Cochrane, an Antiguan carpenter. Now a very exclusive part of London, Notting Hill was then a poor area of slum housing and rapacious landlords. During three days of rioting, thousands of White youths rampaged to beat and attack Blacks. Galloway notes that the Daily Heil asked at the time ‘Should they keep coming?’ referring to the Black and Asian immigrants, who were there being attacked. The area was a hotbed of racism, and Colin Jordan was there with his White Defence League. There is then footage of Jordan at the microphone stating that if coloured immigration continued, it would lead to a mulatto (mixed-race) Britain, the extinction of the White race, and the fall of our civilisation. This is followed by Enoch Powell and his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. Galloway mentions how Mosley tried and failed to get back into British politics, but the BUF’s place was taken instead by the National Front, led by John Tyndall and Martin Webster. After that collapsed, it was succeeded by Nick Griffin’s BNP, which in turn was succeeded by Tommy Robinson’s Islamophobic English Defence League. Robinson is shown at one of his protests against the Rotherham Asian grooming gang, holding up a Qu’ran and claiming that the rapists’ actions were based on ‘this manual’. This has now been succeeded in its turn by John Meighan’s Football Lads’ Alliance, which is also vehemently anti-Islamic. Meighan is shown arguing that they’re against all forms of extremism and racism. But Meighan himself is a former football hooligan, who was given a nine month suspended sentence for affray and banned from every football ground in the country. And John Sillitt, of Stand Up To Racism, describes how, when they tried to leaflet an FLA demo, they were met with cries of ‘We hope they bomb you!’. He states that they are not a non-violent organisation, and that their members hate Islam, not just Islamic extremism. He notes that for all Meighan’s talk, there wasn’t a Muslim speaker with him on the podium. He also stated that Portinari, another Fascist and gunrunner for the UDA, the Protestant paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, is a member of this wretched organisation. The documentary also shows Meighan with Tommy Robinson and other members of the EDL in a pub in Bristol, behaving like a gang of Fascist yobs.

During the documentary he talks to Prof. Matthew Goodwin of the University of Kent, Rob Hoveman, of the Central European University, Budapest, and Francis Beckett, the author of Fascist in the Family, as well as Martin Webster, the Black rights activist, Lee Jasper, and Mike Yardley, a security adviser. Goodwin, Hoveman and Beckett provide very brief definitions of Fascism. Goodman states that it differs from Conservatism in that, while Conservatism looks to the past, Fascism is all about national renewal and looks to the future. Hoveman describes how Fascism is marked by a defensiveness, a belief that society is being undermined, whether by Jews, Communists or liberals. Francis Beckett, whose father was another one of Mosley’s Blackshirts, defines it as being about the belief in an infallible leader ‘which is about as close to madness as you can get’.

Lee Jasper talks about the real fear the NF and other Fascist groups provoked in Black people, and their threat of violence, which could end with you losing your life. Matthew Goodman describes how contemporary Fascists, like the NF and BNP differ from the old style storm-troopers of Mosley’s BUF. Mosley had quite developed ideas about the kind of society he wanted to create and what he wanted to do with the economy. Contemporary Fascists don’t have any of that, just a crude racism and conspiratorialism, so that they are White supremacist organisations.

In his interview with Galloway, Martin Webster rants on about the need to preserve the White race from racial intermixing, drawing a rather spurious comparison with campaigns to save the whale. Galloway asks him how he sees Adolf Hitler. Webster doesn’t condemn him. He states openly that he admires him for some of the things he did, like giving the Germans back their sense of pride and overturning the Treaty of Versailles, and saving Germany from financial collapse and political decadence. Galloway then asks him the obvious question: what does he think about the Holocaust. Webster then replies that he isn’t a Holocaust revisionist, before going on to repeat their arguments. He acknowledges that Poles, Jews and Russians were brutally treated, but claims that scientists and engineers have produced a list of questions about the Holocaust, which are not discussed and for which you are jailed in Germany simply for asking them. But he states that he does not believe that there was a ‘machine’ for the murder of the Jews. As he makes this statement, the film shows footage from the death camps, of a human skeleton in one of the incinerators used to burn the bodies, and a mound of other human bones, all of which show very clearly that Webster is wrong and lying. Webster states very clearly that ‘any sensible government’ would send illegal immigrants back to their country of origin. When asked about non-White immigrants generally, he replies that they’re not happy here, and mentions the Black on Black violence in some of the ghettos. ‘Blacks’ he says, ‘are murdering each other at a terrible rate. He then talks about the failure of integration. This hasn’t occurred in the way ‘they’ wanted. He complains about the adverts with Black and Asian people, and especially bed adverts showing mixed, Black and White couples. These are supposed to be there to encourage the rest of us to follow their example where it is not occurring in reality. Galloway asks him what would happen to people of mixed race, like his children. Two of them are Arab, and two Indonesia. Webster doesn’t really answer the question, just says something about putting the nation first, and how he isn’t going to put off that by questions like that, Galloway’s children excepted. When pressed, he says he would make Black and Asian people an offer like the Godfather’s one ‘they couldn’t refuse’. The camera cuts to Galloway, staring daggers at him. As any loving parent would the person, who despises their children and wishes to harm them, or throw them out of their own country. As for the British people putting up with race-mixing, Webster maintained that they wouldn’t, citing the Leave Vote for the European Union as a demonstration of this.

Yardley makes the point that these Fascist organisations are racist and homophobic, and identifies one of the problems of trying to comb them. These organisations are constantly splintering, and then reforming. He also complains that the media pays very great attention to the threat of Islamic terror, while ignoring domestic Fascist terrorist organisations. The documentary does show the aggressively Nazi Britain First screaming ‘Hail Victory!’ and making the Nazi salute, and Amber Rudd’s speech declaring that they were now banned.

The programme shows these groups as exactly what they are: violent thugs with skinhead haircuts, marching, giving Nazi salutes and chants. The footage of an EDL march, or an FLA march, shows them chanting ‘There’s only one Oswald Mosley’. The young men in these organisations look very much like grotesques Kevin O’Neill and John Hicklenton drew as Terminators in the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip in 2000 AD, which used fantasy to attack racism and bigotry.

It’s a chilling documentary. I found the newsreel footage of Mosley and his fellow thugs particularly disturbing, as this showed mass crowds all greeting him with the Fascist salute. It also has clips of Mosley speaking at the Olympia Palace. Waving his arms around dramatically in a chopping gesture, this shows how desperate Mosley was to copy Mussolini and then Adolf Hitler. Fortunately, he never achieved anywhere near their level of popularity. Despite the menacing tone of this documentary, it’s hard to know how much of a threat these groups pose. They are a real threat to the lives and property of ethnic minorities and left-wingers, whom they attack with extreme violence, going as far as murder. But these Fascist groups are also numerically small. I don’t think any of them has come close to having one of their members elected as an MP, despite the success of the BNP in winning a number of council seats in the 1990s. As for the Leave campaign, many of the voters were actually left-wing, and had an issue, not with foreign immigration as such, but with the stifling neoliberal policies of the EU. It also shows the success of the anti-racist campaigning of the last several decades that Fascistic groups like the EDL and FLA have to hide their racism, and instead project themselves as simply against Islamic extremism.

I am certainly not saying that we should be complacent about them. We shouldn’t. They are a threat, though at the moment this is being contained. But there is much racism in British society and racist violence outside of their ranks, which also needs to be tackled. And there is the grim possibility that if western governments continue to follow neoliberalism, and push more people into desperate poverty, more Whites will become attracted to racist groups as their rage seeks a scapegoat for their own anxieties and fears.

Workfare and Anti-Slavery Legislation

August 23, 2015

Left-wing bloggers against workfare, like Johnny Void, have repeatedly pointed out that workfare constitutes a form of slavery. Under the government’s welfare to work reforms, benefit claimants can be forced to work for companies for no pay, if they wish to receive their benefits. This applies even if the claimant has been sanctioned, so that they receive no benefit payments whatsoever, and are forced to use their savings or go to a food bank. Even if this does not constitute slavery, it certainly constitutes forced labour, which is almost the same and just as offensive under international law.

Yesterday I put the oath medieval slaves took in seventh century France, when poverty forced them to give up their freedom and become a lord’s slave. I pointed out how close this was to current workfare and in particular the use of workfare labour when the claimant has been sanctioned.

Sasson commented on the piece that it was ironic that the Tories were boasting about the efforts they were making to combat modern slavery, while bringing it back with their wretched welfare reforms. That’s exactly right, and I doubt if the point’s been lost on other left-wing commenters and bloggers either.

Mike over at Benefitbloodbath and other bloggers have pointed out that slavery is illegal under article 4 of the UN code of Human Rights. It is also illegal under British national and imperial law.

Slavery was formally abolished in the British Empire with the passage of Edward Stanley’s slavery abolition bill at midnight on the 31st July 1833. It received royal assent nearly a month later on the 28th August. Under its provisions, all slaves were automatically freed from the 1st August of that year. Even before this government decided to ban slavery formally, it had legally ceased to exist in the British Empire under the terms of Act 3 & 4 Will. IV c.73.

It could be argued that rather than being the property of private individuals, like the slaves freed under the above Slavery Abolition Act, those placed on workfare are most similar to the slaves owned by the British crown. These were slaves owned by the British state, some of whom it appears were apprenticed or indentured to private masters. Crown slaves in the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Mauritius and Trinidad were given their freedom under the orders of British government c. 1831. See the House of Commons Papers 1831: Slave Emancipation: Crown Slaves.

Liberated Africans, which was the term used by the British government to describe the slaves liberated from slave ships captured by the Royal Navy, were also freed by the British government. They were placed under the custody of the Crown, and apprenticed to individual private masters, who were supposed to teach them how they could support themselves as self-reliant, independent citizens. When they were given their freedom, the British government order a general muster of the Black and coloured population in the West Indies. Those, who had served their apprenticeships were to be given a certificate declaring them to be free. Those still serving their apprenticeships were to have them cancelled. They were then allowed to remain in the colony with the same rights as the rest of the free Black population. See the government paper House of Commons Papers 1831: Africans Captured: Apprenticed Africans.

Slavery was also declared to be non-existent under British law over fifty years earlier, with the Mansfield judgement on the Somerset case in 1772. James Somerset was a slave belonging to James Steuart. Steuart wished to take him from Britain to America to sell him. Somerset refused to go, and ran away. He was aided by British abolitionist campaigners, who pleaded habeas corpus in his defence, so that he could remain in the country during the trial. Habeas Corpus is, of course, one of the provisions in that document, Magna Carta, which David Cameron confessed to not knowing what it was on Letterman. The case was brought by the British anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson, who used it as a test case to see if slavery existed under British law. Lord Mansfield, reviewing the law, declared that it didn’t.

This meant that slavery was unenforceable in Britain. The owners of slaves, who ran away, could not use the law to reclaim their property.

Mansfield also made some stinging criticisms of slavery itself. In his ruling, he declared

‘The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from the memory. It is so odious that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law.’

Which pretty much applies to workfare, as it has been introduced by law. It is so odious that, as Johnny Void has reported, the government has refused to disclose the identities of the companies, that have signed up for it for fear that public pressure will force the same companies to abandon it once their support is known. This is tacit admission that Mansfield is right, even today.

Furthermore, the enslaved themselves were aware of Mansfield’s judgement in America and the Caribbean, and made use of it to demand their freedom. In the early 19th century several slaves came forward to claim their freedom after returning to the Caribbean from England, or British territory, considering that they had effectively been given their freedom through residence there. They were Grace James, ‘Robert’, and ‘Rachael’ and ‘John Smith’. Grace James had been taken to England in 1822 by her mistress, Ann Allan. She returned to Antigua with her mistress the following year, 1823. Two years later she presented herself to the Collector of Customs, claiming that she had been illegally held in slavery and demanding her freedom under the terms of the 1824 Consolidation of Slavery Act. Robert had also been taken to England in 1815 by his master, William Burnthorne. They returned to Antigua in 1818. Like Grace James, Robert claimed his freedom through his residence in England, whose law did not recognise slavery.

Rachael and John Smith had come to Antigua from Barbados. They had gone with their master, Major Watts, to Gibraltar, a British territory, before returning to Barbados in 1819. Their claim to freedom is slightly different to the others, as they alleged that they had been given certificates of freedom in Gibraltar, but had given this to a resident of the island to register after they returned, when they were seized by Watts’ mother under power of attorney. The Antiguan solicitor-general, Musgrave, concurred with the slaves, declaring that they were now free and citing the precedents under English medieval law. See the government pamphlet Slaves in the Colonies: A Copy of Any Information.

It seems to me that these cases show how dubious workfare is legally, especially when it is applied to benefit claimants, who have been sanctioned. I think the Mansfield judgement, and the cases of Grace James, Robert, Rachael and John Smith could be cited to show that in such a case, even if workfare did not constitute slavery per se, it should be unenforceable.