Humor Magazine

Locke Unlocked!

By Davidduff

Apparently John Locke has been freed from the accusations that his liberal (small 'l') philosophy encouraged the slave trade.  According to Ambrose E-P in The Telegraph, the early liberal Whig philosophers and their creed of both political and economic freedom which led to our very own 'Glorious Revolution' have forever been tainted by the rise of slavery in the Americas underwritten by the British:

For academic orthodoxy holds that John Locke and the great Whig thinkers of
the Glorious Revolution (1688) helped to design and foster the economic system
of hereditary slavery that shaped Atlantic capitalism for a century and a half.

From that it is but a step to dismiss the moral claims of liberalism as so
much humbug, to write off all the talk of justice, natural rights, inviolable
contracts and government by consent as the self-interested catechism of
oppressors. As Samuel Johnson said acidly: "How is it we hear the loudest yelps
for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

However, some terrific history swot, Professor Holly Brewer from the University of Maryland, has burrowed deeply into the ancient documents of the day and absolutely absolved Locke, Adam Smith and other liberal philosophers from blame.  Instead she says, in effect, 'It woz the kings wot dunnit', particularly the Stuarts: 

Locke had been compromised earlier in the 1660s as a young man working for
the Stuarts but later became an exile and rebel in Holland. "When he had a
position of real power, he tried to undercut the development of slavery in
comprehensive ways," she said.

His was the outlook of most liberal thinkers who shaped the American
Revolution. It was the view too of Adam Smith, the free market theorist writing
later in the 18th Century, also accused of promoting slavery. Smith, in fact,
argued that slaverly stifled economic growth and innovation. “It appears from
the experience of all ages and nations, I believe, that the work done by freemen
comes cheaper in the end than that performed by slaves," he wrote in Wealth
of Nations. William Wilberforce cited Smith approvingly to buttress the

abolition case.

Locke's efforts to undo Stuart damage came too late. Vested interests were
too powerful. Hereditary slavery had become embedded in the economic system of
the American and Caribbean colonies. Britain would acquire the notorious
"Asiento" at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, giving the South Sea Company the
contract to supply the Spanish Empire with slaves. The cancer then metastasized.

So you see, if you're a Brit, in reality it was all your fault - and yours - oh, and yours, too, no good trying to hide because, dread words, 'the lawyers are coming, the lawyers are coming'!  The British government is being sued by every jumped-up, tin-pot kleptocracyy in the Caribbean for damages arising from slavery - and guess who pays!

Incidentally, Ambrose E-P absolves Jefferson from the disgraceful innuendo put about by my regular commenter, DM:

And no, Jefferson was not a hyprocrite because he owned slaves. They were
mortgaged, due to his family's crushing debts left from monetary deflation after
the Seven Years War. They could not legally be freed.

Stand by for incoming from DM!

(Thanks to 'SoD' for spotting the article and passing it on).


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog