Mail Online: UK, June 19, 2020 – The Bank of England has confirmed it will remove the portraits of 11 former governors from its walls who profited from what it labelled the ‘inexcusable’ slave trade and owned a total of nearly 5,000 slaves.
The former chiefs at the central bank in London range from Daniel Giles in 1795 who was the co-mortgagee of estates in Grenada to Benjamin Buck Greene in 1873 who was a plantation manager in St Kitts.
Others were Jeremiah Harman in 1816 who had 409 slaves and three estates in St Kitts; John Palmer in 1830 with 238 slaves and two estates in Grenada; and Timothy Curtis in 1837 who had 206 slaves and an estate in St Vincent.
John Reid in 1839 had 3,112 slaves and 17 estates in Jamaica, the Virgin Islands and other areas; Thomson Hankey Jnr in 1851 who owned 534 slaves and four estates in Grenada; and West Indian merchant Sheffield Neave in 1857.
The final two former governors were Alfred Latham in 1861 who owned 402 slaves, three estates in Jamaica, Nevis and Tobago; while Bonamy Dobree in 1859 had 19 slaves and two estates in British Guiana.
In a landmark move, the Bank acknowledged its role in the kidnapping and transportation of thousands of people for the first time, lamenting the ‘unacceptable part of English history’ and saying it will remove images of governors and directors involved in the ‘inexcusable’ trade.
Amid mounting pressure on British institutions, the Bank said it was reviewing artwork in its London headquarters. The move came as several of the UK’s largest companies issued apologies and promised to make reparations after their historical links to slavery were laid bare.
The Church of England has also apologised for historic links to slavery through vicars and bishops who benefited from the barbaric practice. The Church said it was a ‘source of shame’ that clergymen, churches and a bishop may have benefited from a compensation plan that paid plantation owners when slavery was abolished.
A University College London database revealed that almost 100 Church of England clergymen had benefited from slavery, while six governors and four directors at the Bank were reported as beneficiaries or claimants of compensation, The Telegraph reports.
Church clergymen had been involved in claims that would be the equivalent of £46 million in today’s money, research of the database shows, with the construction of 32 churches linked to claimants.
Those churches include Barnstaple’s Holy Trinity, which was built at an expense of almost £10,000, paid for nearly entirely by the Rev James Scott, according to British History Online. Scott had been the primary beneficiary of payouts worth more than £100,000 of today’s money for his father’s Jamaica plantations.
The Rt Rev Henry Philpotts, a former bishop of Exeter, had been named as executor of three claims for three Jamaican plantations worth more than £1.5 million on today’s money – though researchers had said there was no evidence that Bishop Philpotts had owned slaves personally.
The cash had been paid to individual members of the clergy, not to the Church itself, which had campaigned to abolish slavery in the early 19th century. It also apologised for historic cases in 2006.
The City of London’s past has come under the microscope after the Black Lives Matter protests sparked a debate about how Britain should recognise its slave-trading past.
Many directors and governors involved after the Bank’s creation in 1694 had made their fortunes from the slave trade. As well as financing so-called adventurers who were involved in the brutal exploitation of people, the bank financially underpinned British wars in the 18th century to protect the slave colonies.
At one stage, Sir Humphry Morice, a governor of the Bank between 1727 and 1729, owned more slave vessels than anybody else in the country.
The Bank of England said yesterday: “The 18th and 19th-century slave trade was an unacceptable part of English history.
“As an institution, the Bank of England was never itself directly involved in the slave trade, but is aware of some inexcusable connections involving former governors and directors and apologises for them.”
Insurance giant Lloyd’s of London and the pub group Greene King said yesterday they would give substantial financial support to black and ethnic minority charities.
Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds are also among Britain’s biggest high street lenders who are being urged to contribute to BAME causes.
The banks have acknowledged the more painful parts of their history and committed to tackling racism and injustices. But the companies, which are worth billions, are being urged to go further and make financial donations for their links to slavery.
Layla Moran MP, a challenger for the Liberal Democrat leadership, fronted calls for the banks to pay out and said she would be writing to City bosses.
Pressure on the banks to make donations has been cranked up after global insurance firm Lloyd’s of London and pub chain Greene King pledged to make contributions after their founders were revealed as slave-owners.
Since Black Lives Matter protesters tore down the statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston earlier this month, companies have been probed for their own links to slave trade in the Empire.
It has seen anti-racism raid a University College London database which archives compensation claims made by slave owners upon the abolition of slavery in 1833.
The records have dredged up links with well-known corporations, some of whom’s founders have been named.
Ms Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, told the Telegraph: “No one can change the past – but these businesses can step up now and help to build a better, more inclusive future.”
RBS absorbed smaller banks whose bosses were embroiled in the slave trade, which reflects the bank’s own research into its history in 2009.
Addressing an urgent debate on racism and police brutality at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet called on countries to examine their pasts and to strive to better understand the scope of continuing ‘systemic discrimination’.
She pointed to the “gratuitous brutality” on display in the killing of George Floyd, 46, who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
This symbol of ‘systemic racism… has become emblematic of the excessive use of disproportionate force by law enforcement, against people of African descent, against people of colour, and against indigenous peoples and racial and ethnic minorities in many countries across the globe,’ she said.
“Behind today’s racial violence, systemic racism and discriminatory policing lies the failure to acknowledge and confront the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism,” she said.
She stressed the need to “make amends for centuries of violence and discrimination, including through formal apologies, truth-telling processes, and reparations in various forms”.
Yesterday’s urgent council debate was called in response to Mr Floyd’s killing. His death was caught on amateur video, sparking worldwide demands to address systemic racism in the US and around the world.
African countries are calling for the council to ask Bachelet and other UN rights experts to investigate racism and policy brutality in the US, but potential support for their draft resolution is unclear.
Those in favour of slavery reparations argue that financial compensation should be made to the descendants of slaves for past injustices and continuing inequality, although this concept remains only hypothetical.
The most prominent demands for reparations have been made in the US and Britain.