Leftists in the United States have increasingly called for the removal of statues and other landmarks honoring historical figures who, in the context of modern sensibilities, were seen as supporters of slavery or segregation.
As it turns out, politicians in the United Kingdom are having similar debates and have devised a list aimed at shaming or disavowing historical figures who either “supported slavery” or financially benefitted from the slave trade.
Although some of the names on the list are sure to repulse Brits across the ideological spectrum, one name recently added to the report has caused quite a controversy.
Edmund Burke, widely described as a father of modern conservatism, was personally opposed to slavery and even stood up against the inhumane treatment of slaves during his lifetime. It appears he was placed on the list because his brother profited from the slave trade, even though there seems to be no evidence that it enriched Burke in any way.
Some historical scholars in England have spoken out against the decision to include Burke in the report, which was created in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter activists in the U.K.
King’s College professor Richard Bourke, for example, called the decision “nonsense” and explained what Burke actually thought of slavery.
“He was a critic of slavery from his first recorded views,” the political thought professor said. “He found it abhorrent.”
Statue of philosopher Edmund Burke added to slavery list of shame by Parliamentary committee.
This despite being an abolitionist but “because his younger brother made money from Caribbean plantations.”
Do MPs have no real problems to spend their time on?https://t.co/PZV7VRe56U
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Although Burke was initially an advocate for the complete abolition of slavery, he later fought for “alleviating the barbarities of the trade itself,” Bourke explained, noting that the outbreak of the French Revolution made him question whether abolition was a feasible goal during that tumultuous period.
“Given these complexities, there are commentators out there who conclude that because he had a scheme for reforming the trade he was a supporter of it,” the professor added. “Ideology knows no bounds.”
In the U.S., a Democratic-led bill passed in the House last year aimed at removing monuments to Confederate leaders, soldiers, and supporters from Capitol Hill. Among the 67 Republicans who voted in favor of the measure was Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who noted: “All of the statues being removed by this bill are statues of Democrats.”