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Historical Guilt - Slavery - Reparations?

Some argue that we should assume guilt for past actions of our ancestors or culture. In particular for the United States, we are supposed to assume guilt for slavery. Some presume that we should pay reparations to slave descendants because we benefited from slavery. Let us examine the historical situation.

For five thousand years slavery was a normal aspect of every tribe and civilization. African slaves were first brought to Jamestown, Virginia Colony in 1619 from the Caribbean. Jamestown was an English colony. The America of the Declaration was still 150 years in the future. At first the slaves were treated as indentured servants because no law concerning slaves yet existed, and slavery was illegal in England.

Later laws allowed various kinds of slavery in the English colonies of North America. Slavery grew slowly into the 1700's. After the Revolution, all the northern states banned slavery (slavery was one of the complaints against the King in the Declaration). The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery in new states formed in the Northwest Territories. In 1808 Congress banned importation of slaves, as provided by Article One Section 9 of the Constitution. England had banned the slave trade in 1807, and had begun suppressing the Atlantic trade. Everyone assumed that slavery would fade away.

In 1794 the invention of the cotton gin greatly improved the profitability of cotton agriculture, and consequently the demand for slaves in the South. A struggle in Congress over slavery filled the early 1800's as plantation owners wanted to expand slavery into new territories. With the election of Lincoln in 1860 by the anti-slavery Republican Party, many of the Southern States seceded  from the Union.

The ensuing Civil War allowed Lincoln and the Republicans to abolish slavery. 600,000 Americans died in that war, America was in debt for decades, and the South's economy was destroyed for a hundred years.

No other people on Earth have paid such a heavy price to free slaves! We are paid up in full for any past wrong.

Page modified: 22 Sep 2019 20:15:37 -0700

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