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Memories of the 28th Century

Reparations for some, again

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The subject of paying Black Americans for service their ancestors may have done while in servitude to other Americans came up again today. It appears that some people take the idea seriously and do not realize that it is illegal discrimination and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It also appears that the people who favor reparations donít know much history. They seem o think that there was something unique about the enslavement of Black people in America.

Which part of the history is most important? Iím not sure, but the fact that slavery was quite common for a long time, and all sorts of people were enslaved in various times and places. Since this issue has come up in regard to a country of Western Civilization, I wonít go into customs of ownership of people in other cultures. It used to be that people were enslaved for a wide variety of reasons, including: debt, crime, family problems, capture somewhere by slavers, etc. In Ancient times, it wasnít unusual that someone might go from free to slave back to free and back to slave, nor was it unheard of that people would become slaves, because a slave trade saw them and grabbed them (which is what happened to many of the people who ended up as slaves in America).

And slavery was common until fairly recently. The UK ended slavery in the 1790ís, and Russia, where the majority of people were slaves, ended slavery in 1862. In India there was slavery until the 20th century; although the British had outlawed slavery before that. Other countries ended slavery even more recently. In some Arabian countries slavery wasnít out lawed until after 1980.

It is unclear when the Irish ceased being slaves, but it was only a few hundred years ago. It is sort of strange, but the Roman Catholic Church changed the nature of slavery in Europe dramatically. About 1200 years ago, the Pope declared that it was a sin for Christians to own other Christians, and the Christian slaves were freed, but that was before the Slaves had adopted Christianity, so the slavers headed East and rounded up Slaves, who became Slaves, and the word Slaves was adopted in a number of languages. And until about 1900, present day Serbia was named Servia or slave-land.

As for the question is whether the slavery of Blacks in the U.S.A. should be paid for their service as slaves. There are several matters around that. For one thing, the Black slaves were taken by slavers whose companies and customs for back many centuries. Strong tribes collected slaves from weak tribes and sent them off to market. There were several centers of the slave trade in Africa, and the people collected would be sent to different places depending on where they might be sold. Those sent to East Africa ended up in Arabia and the Middle East, while those sent to West Africa were sold in North Africa, Europe, or later in the Caribbean.
Since slaves taken for the same places might have ended up in servitude and any of many places, I wonder whether there have been any attempts to get payments from other countries for past slavery. Brazil had many Black slaves, and the Caribbean islands were mostly populated by slaves, and some of the same collections of Black slaves were sent to North Africa. Where they might have been sold to local property owners or French or Spanish land owners. And then there are the reparations from the people who originally collected and enslaved those Black slaves. I have read that some Ashanti have commented on the advantage their people got from slave raids. I would think that slavery was very profitable at the level of the original collection, but I donít know where the money went or where the suits should be filed. Maybe states in the U.S.A. should bring actions against the governments now in place where slaves were taken, or they could sue the tribes themselves. Whatever money might be gained could be passed on.

Then there is the question of the validity of actions to collect money from people today for actions that took place more than a hundred years ago. I believe that the U.S. Constitution forbids taint of blood in actions; that is that actions may not follow to later generations. That will be an interesting part of the reparations thing. But the Constitutional provision that I like most is the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That requires ďNo State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.Ē
That makes it clear that there canít be special laws for some people that do not apply to everyone; creating a special class of people would be a clear violation.

The whole reparations idea goes back to the idea that General Sherman had, that freed slaves should get 40 acres and a mule. Sherman even went so far as to steal land to give to some of the slaves that he stole, because they werenít freed until the 13th Amendment was ratified in December of 1865. Sherman gave 40 acres without valid title to a few thousand people in Georgia. when the idea went before congress, it was voted down. I do not know what happened to the land that Sherman gave away, but I wouldnít buy any.

Thanks to Sherman, there are people who think they deserve something. Maybe we should find Shermanís descendants and ask them to pay the ones that Sherman didnít pay off. There is no doubt that Sherman exceeded his authority in giving land to any of the slaves that he freed, and I do not know any reason why the U.S.A. or any of the States should follow Shermanís lead.