Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The descendants of British slave owner, John Gladstone, Friday offered “sincerest apologies” to the people of Guyana for the actions of Gladstone “in holding your ancestors in slavery in Demerara”.
In a message Charles, Caroline, Robert, Felix and Xanthe Gladstone as well as William Merison, said that they are “deeply honoured” to have been invited here by The Guyana Reparations Committee and The International Centre for the Study of Migration and Diaspora at the University of Guyana.
In the message read out by Charles Gladstone, they said “it is a particular honour to be here at the launch of this new and important department, whose work we are keen to support.
“We thank both of these organisations profoundly for welcoming us to Guyana and for supporting our attempts to create a brighter future.”
The descendants of Gladstone acknowledged that “slavery was a crime against humanity and its damaging impact continues to be felt across the world today.
“It is with deep shame and regret that we acknowledge our ancestor’s involvement in this crime and with heartfelt sincerity that we apologise to the descendants of the enslaved in Guyana. In so doing we acknowledge slavery’s continuing impact on the daily lives of many.
“We understand that we cannot change history, but we believe that we can have an impact on the world in which we live; and in apologising for the actions of our ancestors, we hope to work towards a better future.”
They said they support the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) 10- Point Justice Plan and are urging the British government to enter into meaningful discussions with CARICOM so that both parties can move towards a better future together.
“We also urge other descendants of those who benefitted from slavery to open conversations about their ancestors’ crimes and what they might be able to do to build a better future.”
The descendants said that they have been helping to fund some of the work of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery at University College London for the past two years and have committed to this for five years.
“We are funding other British cultural projects that seek to highlight the horrors faced by enslaved people and to educate British people about these crimes against humanity.
“As a wider family, we will be creating a financial fund to assist various projects in Guyana, and we will be discussing the use of these funds with our hosts. Our aim is to create meaningful and long-term relationships between our family and the people of Guyana.
“In writing this heartfelt apology we also acknowledge Sir John Gladstone’s role in bringing indentured labourers to Guyana and apologise for the clear and manifold injustices of this,” they said.
Last Thursday, President Irfaan Ali said that while he regards the acknowledgement and apology as being the first steps in the process of reparative justice, he is reiterating an earlier call “on those who were complicit in and who profited from the trade in captive Africans and African enslavement to offer just reparations”,
Ali said that the intended apology should include issues of compensation, reparative justice, and that those involved to be posthumously charged for crimes against humanity.
The Guyana head of state said that the call for reparations is not intended to promote or leverage shame or guilt over the slave trade and slavery.
“It is not extortion. Instead, the demand for reparations is a commitment to righting historical wrongs.”
History has revealed that Gladstone was an absentee owner of plantations in Jamaica and Guyana, building on his wealth earned from the mercantile trade in India, the United States and the West Indies.
After the British seizure of the colonies that became Guyana in 1803, John Gladstone began to invest in them. His interests and acquisitions included at one time or the other plantations at Belmonte, Covenden, Hampton Court, Industry, Met-en-Meer-Zorg, Success, Vreed-en-Hoop, Vreedenstein and Wales.
Gladstone was also the chairman of the Liverpool West India Association, one of the most important groups defending the interests of West Indian plantation owners. (CMC)