Slavery loan wasn’t fully repaid by Britain until 2015 – CARICOM Reparations Chair

Sugar Plantation Slaves 1858 engraving of slaves in the British West Indies working the sugar cane Photo: Lordprice Collection/ Alamy

A loan that was taken by the British Government to pay slave owners for the abolition of slavery in 1834 was not fully repaid until 2015.

This disclosure was made by Vice-Chancellor of The UWI and Chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles at a press conference hosted at the University of the West Indies on Wednesday this week.

The purpose of the press conference – held at the Centre for Reparation Research (CRR) – was to confront claims by the British Government’s Treasury posted via a #FridayFact on its official Twitter channel on Friday, February 9, 2018. The tweet, which was shared with the HM Treasury’s 318,000 followers, read: “Millions of you helped end the slave trade through your taxes”.

Although it was subsequently deleted, the tweet triggered reactions by various interest groups, and captured the attention of the British media and the CRR at The UWI.

The Commission Chair noted that Britain had argued against reparations saying they could not apologise or provide compensation for slavery and the slave trade because it was not illegal at the time and it also took place a long time ago.

With the new discovery about the slavery loan, Sir Hilary said it meant that for one hundred and eighty (180) years, British citizens had been repaying the slavery abolition loan, which made it a present-day issue. Of major concern was the fact that this meant that taxes from persons in the Caribbean Diaspora in the UK had also been used to repay the loan.

“We consider this to be an immorality… it is the greatest act of political immorality,” stated Sir Hilary.

He also questioned whether there may have been a link between his presentation on reparations to the House of Commons, Parliament of Great Britain in July 2014 and the timing of the repayment of the loan, which subsequently happened in February 2015.

Sir Hilary also drew the audience’s attention to the significance of the value of the money in today’s economy. According to him, the twenty million pounds in 1835 would be valued at approximately fifteen billion pounds today. Additionally he said the amount paid to the slave owners represented forty per cent of Britain’s national public expenditure at the time, which could be translated to be forty per cent of the current national budget. If calculated today, this would be approximately two hundred and forty billion pounds.

He also pointed out that the total amount that was to be paid for the abolition of slavery was actually forty seven million pounds. He explained that the British Parliament actually paid 20 million in cash to the plantation owners and then stipulated that the enslaved should work for an additional six years for free under the Apprenticeship period, to pay off the balance of twenty seven million pounds. This, he said, meant that the British Parliament did not in fact pay for the abolition of slavery but instead the enslaved Africans paid the majority of the money for their freedom.

For these unjust provisions and the classification of the enslaved Africans as “property” and “chattel,” Sir Hilary characterised the Abolition Act of 1834 as the most “vile and racist piece of legislation in the history of mankind.” He also pointed out that the British Parliament chose to implement an economic model for granting freedom that ensured the transfer of the wealth of the Caribbean back to Britain, using the cash liquidated from slavery. He revealed that research into the archives of the Bank of England, HM Treasury, and the Rothschild Merchant Bank shows that the British Government had been refinancing the slavery abolition loan over the past 150 years to fuel economic growth in Britain, with the last refinancing done in 1927.

He said that Britain owed the Caribbean a comprehensive development programme and should repay the money extracted from the Caribbean which has contributed to the burden of poverty which most of our countries face. He urged the Region to take a stand on the matter.

Other speakers at the press conference were Director of the CRR at The UWI, Professor Verene Shepherd, Member of the Jamaica Reparations Committee, Lord Anthony Gifford, and Jamaican Minister of Transport and Works, the Honourable Michael Henry.

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  1. Yes ah
    February 26, 2018

    Don’t forget France. We were under French rule too

  2. jeff
    February 26, 2018

    Are we forgetting the aid Dominica received after maria and all the other storms that hit the islands,now and all those years ago.How many millions is that? Slavery is one of the worst things man can do to man and is still going on today, and will still go on when i’m turned to dust. We must move on but never forget what it did to us. And please no more using the”N” word it is one of the worst words ever invented to describe another human being, it is evil and negative. Only when we stop using that word will we reach our potential as black people.

  3. out of south city
    February 25, 2018

    There comes a time when we need to be practical and stop having our heads up in the clouds waiting for someone(NO ONE) to appear. When it comes to our history, we always want to forget what has been done and pretend that it never happened. That’s what religion has done to us. We can’t even be critical and rational thinkers. Reality has been replaced by myth, allegory, etc., and that’s why we can’t seem to find our way as a people. Do you see other races putting their history aside? Do the so-called Jews forget the Holocaust? We are in a physical world, so our physical state needs to be satisfied. While we are looking up to the sky, the people who gave us the bible and their god, they are reaping all our resources. We need to be real and face the facts. Why are we ashamed of our history? In spite of what our forefathers went through, we are still a resilient people with great minds.

  4. Zandoli
    February 24, 2018

    Fransisco, your getting your dates confused. Slavery was abolished in the British West Indies in 1834. That is way less than 400 years ago.

    The USA, as usual was way later after ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      February 24, 2018

      Okay, I actually confused the total duration of slavery, and the day it was first abolished on the island of Trinidad.

      Elizabeth, I was not exaggerating anything; I simply erred!

    February 24, 2018

    Great article and insightful research, this should be in history books, what about the French, Spanish and the Dutch?

  6. analy thomas
    February 24, 2018

    Are these new problems which require solutions? or are they old problems waiting to be solved? Whether they pay or not don’t we still do as the UN ask? Or we do not receive aid? Of course slavery was terrible and Great Britain vacuumed our resources but do we ever move on?
    Will our minds ever be renewed?
    Say we be compensated billions. We build roads, schools, airports, hospitals……. We die, our children enjoy them, they die too……
    This all satisfies our physical state… our physical body dies and is feast to worms or fish or fire..whatever . How about our soul? Our soul will live on forever one place or another. Are we preparing for the home that our soul needs or are we wanting an abusive, horrible home for our soul that even devils want to enter pigs instead of going back there!
    Do we still want to be circling in the wilderness or entering the promise land? Get over it! Forgive and move on! Know the Lord and let Him direct your path.
    God’s name be praised!

    • Movie time grab ur popcorn Readers
      February 25, 2018

      BS analy Thomas. One has 2 b anal to think a soul is really logical. You are not only anal but gullible, religiously rolled over. There is no such thing. It defies logic. You stated the following.This all satisfies our physical state… our physical body dies and is feast to worms or fish or fire..whatever . How about our soul? Our soul will live on forever one place or another. Are we preparing for the home that our soul needs or are we wanting an abusive, horrible home for our soul that even devils want to enter pigs instead of going back there!
      The soul u speak of is the memories our children & grand childrenof us but by the time ur grand children have kids that soul( memory fades away. By the time these grands turn grands memory of us will be no more.
      SOUL my big toe. What ignorance analy so.

      • Pas toutes D'cen aveg
        February 26, 2018

        Hit the AH lol Analy Thomas.
        What a show off.

  7. Glen
    February 24, 2018

    Sorry Telemacque slavery was not abolished four hundred years ago. Slavery was abolished in 1834 so this means slavery was abolished 184 years ago. Sir Africans began to come as slaves in the sixteen hundreds so this will make it approximately 400 years since the arrival of Africans in the caribbean.

  8. roy
    February 23, 2018

    If Britain really had to repay for slavery and other resources it took, Britain would be made bankrupt.

  9. Da
    February 23, 2018

    This is why the entire Caribbean should support MP Henry from the Clarendon area in Jamaica in his efforts to sue the Queen for reparation for the financial gains received by U.K during the slave trade.
    I fully support his efforts.

    • Man bites dogs
      February 25, 2018

      @ Da, you and the entire Caribbean can try by all means but don’t hold your breath.

  10. Hmph!
    February 23, 2018

    Yes I. It never ends. That slavery business.

  11. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    February 23, 2018

    If Hilary wish his story to be remotely believably, I think he has forgotten to submit the names of the slave owners, who were the recipients of payments in 2015.

    Someone need to remind Hilary that slavery was abolished more than four hundred years ago, and since the life span of a human is seventy years, though most people die in their eights, Hilary need to state how many of the slave owners, and their surviving relatives who lived for over two hundred years or living for almost five hundred years!

    Hilary is simply looking for his fifteen minutes of fame!

    • February 24, 2018

      :arrow: Someone needs to remind Hilary that slavery was abolished more than four hundred years ago, :arrow: Telemaque

      Some of your responses would make better sense if you did not exaggerate so much. 1834 – 2018 is only 184 years ago. But I agree with you, that the generations of Slavery would have existed like some 4 to 5 hundred years before 1834. Who can have any record of such to receive repatriation, on behalf of the generation of slaves in 2015?

      As I will continue to say, it is all about “The Money” which is the actual “Slave Master” of mankind, he is searching for freedom, but he doesn’t know that because of his “greed”, which is the true product of money, he is holding himself in captive.

      • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
        February 24, 2018

        As if I do not know how to subtract eh!

        I am capable of errors as ever other human: Except for your god Roosevelt, talking about how he going to make Dominica first climate resilient country on earth. Question is; he has not told the world how he is going to accomplish goal.

        What scientific methods he intends to utilized in order to all his climate resilient nation to withstand the elements of nature.

        Little twelve year old teacher Elizabeth; don’t you know to error is to be very much human? Even computers do error when they programed incorrectly, or whenever there is some electronic component failure! 

    • Annon
      February 28, 2018

      This sounds like fart coming from a World Class 1d10t!

  12. Shaka Zulu
    February 23, 2018

    Why do you guys think there is a waste of time body called tbe commonwealth which we so gladly belong to. Its to remind us who is master and who is slave. Yet the brits today have become more nationalistic and we conti ue to beg. Black man has to rise up and revolt with education, selfworth enhancement, innovation, ethical and moral fortitude, discipline, sacrifice, brotherhood, a sense of community with a culture of independent responsibility for a greater good and for advancement of our generation. Until then we wil remain slaves to others. Today even out leader use thier people as chattle to stay in power and self aggrandizement.

    • Annon
      February 28, 2018

      Common Shaka you are better than that, i know it you are fed up with Da’s politics but quit stooping so low. Stick to subject.

  13. Roseau River
    February 23, 2018

    Reparations in the 21st century are open markets, buying Caribbean products, spending your vacation dollars in our sun, sand, rainforest, and rivers.

  14. zandoli
    February 23, 2018

    Let it rest. We should be focusing out attention on matters that will advance us as a people – not this nebulous claim for reparation.

    Let’s encourage our children to get a better education, discourage our youth from having babies at too young an age, reduce criminal activity in our communities. These are the things we should be focused on. Let the idea of reparation stay where it belongs: in academia.

    • budman
      February 26, 2018

      so we can’t do both? we are incapable of multitasking? why do we abandon one for the other? smh

  15. Beatrix
    February 23, 2018

    Well. That was pure evil and depressing…

  16. in these times
    February 23, 2018

    so what about the slaves? their freedom wasnt worth anything to them? only to their former masters for loss of property? what about loss of dignity, family, humanity, FREEDOM? If black people want we can control the world. but sadly we have already been broken.

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