Slavery: Why should our generation have to apologise for slavery?

If any apology is made by this government or other representative of the British people for “our part in the slave trade”, it will not be done in my name.

Many of those people clamouring for a full apology, and indeed financial restitution, will point to the biblical principle that “the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the sons”. But even those Old Testament texts limit guilt to “the third and fourth generation”.

Now I know my father wasn’t to blame for slavery, and neither was his dad, nor his grandfather. And, thanks to the online publication of the 1841 census, I can also be sure that his great grandfather was in the clear.

Maybe my father ‘to the power of seven’ had something to do with the trade in slaves, but who can say? From what I know of my ancestors, it seems more likely that they were themselves working in some form of servitude, rather than profiting from slavery.

Don’t get me wrong. Slavery is abhorrent, and its abolition at the beginning of the 19th century is a most welcome chapter in our country’s history. But it is just that – history. Where do we draw the line? I say right here, right now.

Last week marked the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in the UK. Let the people of our country condemn utterly its existence, praise those who fought for its abolition, express our deep regret that it could ever have happened and rejoice at the better times we live in today.

But don’t demand that we apologise. We shouldn’t and I truly hope we don’t.


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