The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A History Lesson

The white European powers of the colonial era did not invent slavery. They did not even invent black slavery. Until quite recently in human history slavery existed on every continent on earth, except Antarctica. Indians enslaved other Indians in the Americas before the arrival of the white man. African tribes were enslaving their captives of war – other Africans – and selling them to the Arabs and the Chinese as far back as the Tang dynasty, which was long before the Portuguese became the first Europeans to get involved in the African slave trade. Asians had been enslaved by other Asians throughout history, and Europeans by other Europeans at various points in their history.

It was Europe’s getting involved in the African slave trade that led ultimately to that system’s demise. When the European powers began purchasing slaves from African slave traders, the age of exploration was beginning, and along with it the settling of colonies in the New World. Slavery flourished for a period that, from a historical point of view, was quite brief, before reformers, some motivated by Christianity, others by the emerging liberalism of the Modern Age, demanded its abolition. Early in the nineteenth century, the United Kingdom took up that cause. She abolished the slave trade throughout her empire in 1807, and slavery itself in 1833. In Canada, we were a bit ahead of the rest of the Empire in this. Upper Canada – now called Ontario – banned the importation of slaves, and began the gradual emancipation of the few that were here, in 1793.

These Acts did not abolish slavery in the United States for the obvious reason that the Americans had seceded from the British Empire in their Revolution in the 1770s. Nevertheless, they led to the abolitionist movement gaining strength in the United States since the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, which abolition the Empire was backing up with naval force, cut the American slave trade off from its supply.

In the 1860s the Americans went to war with each other. The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, was elected in the fall of 1860 without any electoral seats from the states south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In ten of those states he had received no votes whatsoever, and he won only two out of almost a thousand counties. The United States was divided and polarized, and this would not be the last time, but here the divide coincided with a regional division on the map. Slavery was only one of the issues that divided the North and the South, nor was it the main issue. The conflict was primarily one between a modernizing, increasingly urban, society, with a secularized Puritan culture, intend on building an economy based on industrial manufacture on the one hand and a more traditional, rural society that was more conservative in its religion and wished to retain an agricultural way of life on the other. When Lincoln was elected without any support from the latter, the Southern states opted to secede and form the Confederate States of America. They believed they were within their constitutional rights to do so and while this was a hot topic at the time, this was certainly in keeping with the Jeffersonian or anti-federalist interpretation of the American constitution.

Lincoln was personally opposed to slavery, but this was not what motivated his actions. In his first Inaugural Address, he promised to drop the issue if the Southern states would return. To keep the South in the United States he ordered an invasion of the South, leading to a war that cost more American lives that the Spanish-American War, the two World Wars, and the Korean War combined. The campaign was fought according to the pattern that is now called “total war”, laying waste to the Southern countryside. Waging such a war against people who by your own theory are still your brethren and countrymen was and is considered atrocious and required an iron-clad moral justification. Modernizing the economy simply would not cut it. It is for this reason that the Northern interpretation of these events has always placed the stress on the abolition of slavery, often to the exclusion of all other causes of the war.

It should be noted that another man at the time who condemned slavery as a “moral and political evil” was Robert E. Lee, the brilliant general to whom Lincoln had first offered the command of the Union forces. He turned it down and resigned his commission rather than draw his sword against his native state of Virginia. Lee, even though he thought secession was a foolish idea, offered his services to Virginia and was given charge over the Army of Northern Virginia. By the end of the war he had gone from being the de facto to being the official, supreme commander of the Southern forces.

The reason this ought to be noted is because events like those of the 1860s could very well have increased, rather than decreased, the animosity between the two regions of the United States, and to prevent this from happening the Americans eventually settled on a compromise. Just as Homer eulogized Hector as well as Achilles in The Iliad, so the heroes on both sides would be honoured. This helped cement their country back together, and the United States gained from it for by all accounts the most honourable leaders in the conflict were men like the aforementioned General Lee and his associate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The agreement to honour both sides was an honest effort to heal a wound, repair a division, and unite a country, and for a century it was successful.

The exact opposite is true of what the Black Lives Matter movement is currently doing.

While Black Lives Matter and Antifa, if it is indeed right to think of the two as separate entities, claim to hate racism, it is really white people they hate. If they really hated racism, their goal would be for blacks and whites to get along, for there to be racial peace and harmony. Instead, they have been fomenting racial strife and division. Or they would be, if whites still had self-respect, or at the very least the instinct for self-preservation, enough to stand up for themselves. Since that does not appear to be the case, what we are seeing instead is a form of one-sided violence, a bullying or beating-up on whites.

The “anti-racist” left has for some time now been trying to undo the aforementioned post-bellum healing of the American nation by demanding the removal of Confederate flags, statues of Lee, Jackson, and other Southern military heroes, and that streets, buildings and cities named after these men be renamed. Three years ago, they turned up to counter-protest what would, unlike the Black Lives Matter riots that are mislabeled such by the mainstream media, otherwise have truly been a “peaceful protest” against the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, and turned it into a violent brouhaha that led to the deaths of three people, the blame for which, predictably, was placed entirely on those who objected to the removal of the statue, although it was the other side that started the violence. They are now capitalizing on the outrage over George Floyd’s death to demand and obtain the removal of these Confederate monuments.

They are not stopping with the Confederate monuments, however, as those of us who have all along opposed the attack on those monuments knew they would not. Patrick Buchanan asks in his latest column whether George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and basically everybody who built the United States, will be next. It is a rhetorical question, I am sure. He knows the answer as well as I do.

In London, the statue of Sir Winston Churchill has been defaced, and the British government has ordered it boarded up to protect it against further vandalism. This was, of course, the same Sir Winston Churchill who led the free world in the war against the German dictator whose name has become virtually synonymous with white racism. In Leeds, a statue of Queen Victoria has been similarly defaced. Queen Victoria reigned over a British Empire in which slavery had been abolished. The bill accomplishing that had been signed into law by her father William IV, four years prior to her accession. Her government took great lengths to make sure that bill was enforced.

Here in the Dominion of Canada, Black Lives Matter has been demanding the removal of the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Montreal. Their charge against the leading Father of Confederation and our country’s first Prime Minister is that he started the Indian Residential Schools. The rebuttal to this, not that facts matter to these pathetic know-nothings, is that the Churches had started the residential schools on their own prior to Confederation, Sir John A. MacDonald began funding the schools to fulfil the Dominion’s obligation under the treaties to provide the Indians with education, that the abuses which have given these schools a bad name come from the anecdotal evidence collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which pertains to a period long after Sir John A. Macdonald’s premiership, and that these schools, whose language immersion policies were by no means uniform, no more practiced “cultural genocide” than French immersion schools do today.

It is absurd to judge the leaders of a hundred or more years ago, by standards which we have invented in our own day, as if we, who are living in what is probably the greatest age of moral depravity since the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah, have any right to establish such standards. This is especially true, when the standards pertain to racism, and we are hypocritically demanding from the white leaders of the past, a perfect adherence to standards which the non-whites of the present day are never expected to keep.

The demands and actions of the Black Lives Matter mob are leading us down a path to greater racial violence, not to racial peace and harmony. But then, mobs always lead to violence rather than peace and harmony. Either the promoters of this nonsense know that and it is their intention, or they have never learned from the history they seek to erase.


  1. It really chaps my hide that Sir John A. was taken off the $10 bill, and now statues of him are coming down, pubs named after him being renamed in Kingston, ON, the city that used to be proud to be his home; this is being allowed to happen to the memory of the main Father of Confederation, our first P.M.; we can't celebrate him as a heroic man, albeit with a few flaws; no, we must condemn him, apparently.

    1. It infuriates me too. This is far more serious than the removal of Confederate statues in the United States or even of the desecration of Churchill's statue. An attack on the father of our country is an attack on the country in its entirety, and attempt to delegitimatize it completely.

    2. Enraging yes. Wanton vandalism against our country and its history masquerading as moral rectitude.

      T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and George Orwell's 1984 are being made manifest in front of our eyes.

      Thank you Gerry for this blog. You've been producing some top notch essays lately. "Fire tempers iron and temptation steals the just", to quote Thomas a Kempis. Kudos to you, too, Will S for the work you do. You're voices crying in the wilderness but unlike in the days of John the Baptist few are heeding the call for repentance or returning to the Lord of their forefathers. Please keep going for as long as you can. I, an old stock Canadian reactionary, for one, appreciate your efforts.

    3. You're welcome, Thomas, and thank you.

      I appreciate your reference to The Wasteland. It is a bit encouraging to remember that Eliot penned those verses before he converted to Anglo-Catholicism, became a loyal British subject, and basically found a solid, rooted, place on which to stand, from which he could make the case for the "permanent things" and from which he could wisely advise us that there "are no lost causes, because there are no won causes". The Wasteland preceded Ash Wednesday - and the Four Quartets.