The Nelson Society (NS) is now weighing in on the issue of the removal of Lord Nelson from where he presently stands.
In an article written by Alan Cross, the NS seeks to cast shadows of doubt on the rationale to remove the statue of Lord Nelson. The understanding of Nelson’s racism as presented by many historians, is being questioned by Mr. Cross and the NS.
Much of Nelson’s charge of being a racist and supporter of the Slave Trade comes from a letter to a plantation owner, which the NS questions. Mr. Cross writes, ” Much is made of a letter that Nelson penned in June 1805 to plantation owner Simon Taylor. The private letter to Taylor was published in 1807 by the anti-abolitionists, some eighteen months after Nelson’s death and therefore completely out of context. Work is ongoing to establish if the letter has been altered post Nelson’s death to suit the cause of the anti-abolitionists. An examination of the letter as it stands shows the following: Nelson not only gives his support to the plantations in the West Indies but also criticises Wilberforce and his allies. Hence it is assumed Nelson supported the slave trade. However the letter should be read in the context of the conflict Nelson was engaged in, and the state of the war at that point. Nelson’s view can be understood as an expression of the necessity (in his view) to ensure Britain’s interests were not threatened or undermined. In June 1805 when it was written Britain, at war with both France and Spain, was under imminent threat of invasion. The survival of the country was reliant on Nelson catching up with Villeneuve’s fleet and at the point that the letter was penned Nelson was pursuing the French fleet across the Atlantic and back trying to bring them to battle. Nelson was under huge pressure; therefore any proposal that might destabilise the national economy at this critical time had to be anathema to him (or to any commander charged with such responsibility). With regards to his comments on Wilberforce Nelson was guilty of no more than relaying a commonly held view of the time that was tinged with suspicion of the sudden evangelism of the formerly dissolute Wilberforce.”
What the NS and Mr. Cross fail to comprehend is, while the trade in Black African Lives for exploitation and barbarism on colonial vestiges of the Crown was normal at the time of Nelson, it did not make it just or right. As such it does not excuse those who defended it and benefited from it, past and present. The interest of the Crown that Nelson so valiantly defended was Slave Labour.
Nelson defended a brutish economic venture that was founded on the blood, sweat and tears of African people. These African people whose exploitation Nelson defended, were our family’s. They are our family!
Of Nelson’s actions as it related to interactions with African descended people Mr. Cross wrote; ” Nelson’s actions in no way support the notion that Nelson was overtly or privately racist or pro-slavery. There are many examples that support this notion and we highlight several below:
- Any West Indian slave escaping to a navy ship (including Nelson’s) were signed on, paid and treated the same as other crew members. At the end of their service they were discharged as free men. To get a better perspective on this, you should research “Black Pirates”. I am no historian, but we should look at who made up the average crew on British Navy Ships. I am almost positive the pay was not that attractive. As for being discharged as free men, discharged where?
- In 1799 Nelson intervened to secure the release of thirty North African slaves being held in Portuguese galleys off Palermo. I wonder what became of these North African Slaves? Were these not the Moors? Released from one enslavement into another.
- In 1802 when it was proposed that West Indian plantation slaves should be replaced by free, paid industrious Chinese workers Nelson supported the idea. Wait, he supports the idea of doing away with the people who were paid nothing for their labour, to bring in other people who will be paid? “Industrious Chinese Workers’, what kind of workers were the Africans?
- In 1805 Nelson rescued the Haitian General Joseph Chretien and his servant from the French. They asked if they could serve with Nelson, and Nelson recommended to the Admiralty that they be paid until they could be discharged and granted passage to Jamaica. The General’s mission was to end slavery, a fact of which Nelson was well aware. The general and his servant were well treated and paid. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The General and Nelson were both fighting the French. Neslon being a shrewd war captain would have used the Haitian revolution to his advantage. Does this mean he was against the slave trade? I would say not, plus he was taking orders from the Crown, in the game of chess that was being played between Britain and France.
- The Nelson family used to have a free black servant called Price. Nelson said of him he was ‘as good a man as ever lived’ and he suggested to Emma that she invite the elderly Price to live with them. In the event Price declined. I wonder if Price was paid, and if so I expect very little. I wonder why Price declined to live with the Nelson family?
The call for the removal of Lord Nelson is akin to a Barbados National Laundry Day. It is really showing up the White in the White’s and even in some of the Black fabric of the Barbadian society. I wonder why the question is not asked of the White community and their Black friends, why is it so important Nelson that stays where he is? Historical value remains when he is moved, people can still go see him if they want and birds are still free to shit on him as they like. Why must he stay where he is Mr. White? Tell us the truth!