July 23rd, 2015


Roots and Fruits

It would have been particularly shaming for me to have discovered that my ancestors were amongst the slave-owners compensated by the British government on the abolition of slavery in 1833, especially when some of them at least had been so vocal in the abolitionist movement.

I was relatively confident in their integrity, but not entirely: after all, they certainly knew and corresponded with slavers, such as Pierce Butler (no relation), who sent his son to my great*4 grandfather's school in Chelsea and was visited in America by said ancestor's own son. Moreover, they were just the right class to have had a few "field workers" labouring sight unseen on some Antiguan plantation. People are pretty susceptible to long-distance hypocrisy: it's not as if most of us in the West are unaccustomed to live relatively well off the back of cheap foreign labour even today. So it was with some trepidation that I checked the compensation database (which I recommend generally, by the way - it's a fascinating site).

Luckily it gave me the all clear. I feel very relieved, which is a little strange in itself, but a measure I suppose of how invested I am in this eccentric but mostly harmless - indeed, often benevolent - crew, whose deeds have occasionally enlivened this journal.