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Freedom is slavery

November 28, 2006

As expected, the bicentenary of the British government’s abolition of the slave trade is going to marked by guilt and shame.

Prime Minister Tony Blair will say:

Personally I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was, how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition, but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened and to rejoice at the different and better times we live in today.

Here’s what he should be saying:

200 years ago the British government took an unprecedented step in the moral history of humanity. It outlawed a trade that had been carried on by virtually all nations since the beginning of recorded history. Even today, slavery continues to be practised in parts of Africa and the Middle East. But in 1807 our forefathers, inspired by the Christian principles that underpinned our great nation, agreed with pioneers like William Wilberforce and a coterie of determined others that slavery had no place in the commerce of civilised nations. They therefore abolished that dreadful trade. Furthermore, 27 years later, all slaves anywhere within the British Empire were set free by a unilateral action of the British Parliament. This is a date to celebrate one of the greatest achievements of Britain’s past. If we did nothing else as an imperial power, at least we did that.

Fat chance.

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