Why Nelson Must Fall 2

“That damnable doctrine”, wrote Lord Horatio Nelson in 1805; “I will speak and fight to my death to secure its defeat.”

He was referring to the idea of black freedom as a human right which the Haitians had placed at the centre of their recently passed constitution.

The slave-owning white men in Barbados funded the making of a statue to their hero, Horatio Nelson, and abused their parliamentary power to erect it in 1813. It was strategically placed at the centre of Bridgetown, next to the very Parliament that slave owners monopolized.

The slave owners had three objectives in mind:

(1) that the enslavement of our 83,000 black ancestors on the island was right, profitable, and should last forever;

(2) that the children of these enslaved persons, who they intended to own, control, and subordinate forever, should see the Nelson statue as a symbol of white military, economic and social power; and

(3) that all blacks on the island should gaze upon the object and shake with fear in the contemplation of offending it purpose.

Today, 200 years after its erection, the slave owners’ vision remains intact. Nelson is unmoved, and blacks are still quivering.

Barbadian slave owners loved Nelson and endorsed his “damnable doctrine” views. William Wilberforce, they said, was its leading advocate. They burnt Wilberforce’s effigy in Bridgetown and built a statue to Nelson. Barbados was the prime site of the resistance to this “damnable doctrine” of black freedom, and the statue of Nelson, its symbol.

Nelson wore two hats that enabled him to carry the political status as Britain’s leading campaigner against black freedom. As a politician sitting in the House of Lords, he opposed, abused and humiliated Wilberforce for his lifelong effort to end the criminality of the British trade in enchained, enslaved African bodies. In addition, as a supreme naval commander he was uniquely empowered, unlike any politician, to give military might to his political posturing.

These two identities made Nelson the darling of Barbadian slave owners. His death made them fearful that they would lose military control of the island and ownership over the 83,000 blacks. They erected a life-size statue of the man who represented the message they wished to communicate to the black majority.

It was in a well-known letter written on 10th June, 1805 to his old friend Simon Taylor, a large-scale Jamaica enslaver, that Nelson outlined his views on slavery, colonies, and British imperial rule of the West Indies. He wrote:

“I have ever been, and shall die a firm friend to our colonial system. I was bred as you know in the good old school, and taught to appreciate the value of our West Indies possessions, and neither in the field nor in the senate, shall their interest be infringed while I have an arm to fight in their defense or a tongue to launch my voice.”

This letter signalled the tone of his political speeches and voting pattern in the House of Lords. Together, they served to set him apart as the most prominent public figure fighting against the very idea of black freedom.

Nelson was as effective a bullish politician as he was a sea dog in the war to ensure the continuity of the black slave trade and slavery. His blistering tirades against Wilberforce and those who opposed slavery won him many supporters in Great Britain, and especially in Little England.

Wilberforce’s strategy was to target Barbados slave owners, representing them as the most evil and wicked men in the British Empire. He and his disciple, Fowell Buxton, focused on their slave management and described them as most foul persons who could see no future without the ownership and control of blacks.

For this, Nelson targeted and denigrated Wilberforce. In this regard he boasted to Simon Taylor that he will fight and speak to the death against the “damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies”. The concept that the promotion of freedom for black people was a “damnable doctrine” went viral. In addition to a warrior and politician, Nelson became an intellectual spokesman for white enslavement of blacks.  However, to those persons in the British parliament and civil society who wanted slave trading and slavery ended, he was an evil man, a hater of black people and represented the wickedness of the British Empire.

In 1966, after 339 years of British colonial barbarity, the collective wisdom of Barbadians drove them to turn their back on the evil Empire and to become as decent and democratic an independent nation as was possible. But citizens have been psychologically programmed for two centuries and have not vandalized the obscenity in our city, nor scandalized the slave owners’ scam upon our society.

We have reached the end of our endurance. We are not going to travel any deeper into this 21st century carrying the baggage of this 19th century brutality. Nelson should be taken down by the parliament before it is torn down by the people. It should be sent to the pier, out of site of the parliament, to hear a watery eulogy.

As our nation approaches democratic elections, political parties should declare their positions on this proposition. Surely, I will cast my ballot in support of the freedom fought for in 1816, and against the enslavement desired in 1813. Who will rise up and free the nation of this psychic abuse? Is there not a brave woman or man amongst us? Are we still living in fear of the Nelson project? Are we still quivering in fear of being public advocates of the “damnable doctrine”?

Source: (Sir Hilary Beckles is a Barbadian and vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies)

5 Responses to Why Nelson Must Fall 2

  1. MIIB November 25, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Smashing article.

    Thanks BBT enjoyed that.

    Reply
  2. Othneal November 25, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I was born and raised in Barbados. I have seen that statue more times than I can recount and until I read this impassioned nugget of our history, I was ignorant of its significance in our story.
    I do not reproach myself for this but pronounce my educators guilty of negligence tantamount to child abuse.
    The colonial status that may have been a challenge back then no longer exists except as psychological fetters. There is no longer any reason for this “abuse” to be inflicted on our children.
    Once the real significance of the “Nelson Statue” is revealed to the young ones, they will see no reason to perpetuate this insult on the the people of Barbados. Education would have immunized them against the subliminal fear that still enslave the adults. We owe it to our beloved ancestors. Well done Hilary Beckles.

    Reply
  3. Tony Waterman November 26, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    @Writer of this Article !!!! Who will rise up and free the nation of this psychic abuse? Is there not a brave woman or man amongst us? Are we still living in fear of the Nelson project? Are we still quivering in fear of being public advocates of the “damnable doctrine”?

    What about you ???????

    @Othneil !!!! Don’t know where or when you went to school, but i know of the History of Lord Horatio Nelson, i know that he helped ferry Water to Stop the Great Fire in Bridgetown, i Know that Trafalgar Aquare and the Statue of him in London England is YOUNGER than the one in Barbados (Ours is older), i know that ours was Fully Purchased NOT with Pounds Sterling, but with PURE REFINED BAJAN SUGAR (Dont remember how many Pounds) i also know that some FOOLISH Bajan Government Spent $80.000 to turn this Statur to face East from Facing down Broadstreet, why can’t we use the History of this Statue to Earn us Foreign Exchange by having is as a part of our Tourism Product.?????

    Reply
  4. Ralph W Talma November 27, 2017 at 9:28 am

    1. Thank you @Tony Waterman, you have said what I was about to say.
    2. Please leave the statue alone. Soon these same people will be asking for the term ‘Little England’ not to be used.
    3. Is Sir H Beckles really the author of the article? If so, I propose he should immediately return his Knighthood.

    Reply
  5. Chris Wright November 28, 2017 at 12:09 am

    If you forget your past, chances are it will be repeated. One should know where they came from, where they are and where they are going. I am sure the architects of Independence had this in mind and the learned men and women of the party which gained Independence for Barbados were not like the others who were very subordinate when dealing with the England. It’s now fifty-one years of Independence for Barbados and I am very happy I had the opportunity to live to return there last year to celebrate…and very proudly so..our 50th ANNIVERSARY of INDEPENDENCE.
    There are many other social, environmental, and economical ills plaguing the island and I wish these scholars would put their heads, hearts and energy into creating solutions for these, rather than wasting time talking about removing a statue. This only demonstrates how reactive they are even with the vast amount of education they have. If they want to be proactive, why not arrange a posse with some jack hammers, sledge hammers, pick axes, and remove the statue one Saturday morning around 11:00am. BETTER yet! November 30th is only a few days away, have it removed at 11:58 on the 29th into the 12:01 on November 30th. Stop the talk, stop being so reactive and be proactive. JMHO

    Reply

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