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Edward Colston

rjsterryrjsterry Posts: 17,258
edited 8 June in The cake stop
Seeing as it's derailing two other threads and this has some particular interest for me as a former Bristolian, let's have a chat about one of the city's big names.

I'm sure a few won't have heard of him before now, but he was a very successful merchant who among other things was heavily involved with the Royal African Company, which between 1680 and 1692 transported ~84,000 people from West Africa to the Americas as slaves, ~19,000 of which died on route. He was deputy governor from 1689 and 1690

He set up three schools, almshouses, and made various other philanthropic donations. The city's main music venue, various other buildings and numerous streets are named after him in the city.

More info here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Colston

The particular statue has been the subject of calls to remove it or at the least recognise his involvement in the slave trade for years. This got bogged down in arguments over the wording of the new plaque to be fixed to the plinth of the statue. Personally, I think it beggars belief that the statue wasn't removed to a museum years ago, but he is far from the only link with slavery in the city. It's never going to be possible to undo the link between Bristol and slavery - it's built into the very fabric of the city and its institutions - but it's about time it was recognised properly.
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  • coopster_the_1stcoopster_the_1st Posts: 3,456
    If you want to believe the media narrative he "tripped and fell"...
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  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here
    Without wanting to end the thread, but this is pretty much all there is to say on it:



    (The video, not the tweet)
  • nickicenickice Posts: 1,295
    If you want to get rid of a statue you do it by democratic means. Or you can form a mob and people will find excuses for you.
  • pangolinpangolin Posts: 1,950
    Here's the level of debate on local news articles.



    The quantity of people defending Colston is staggering. Reams of the stuff. And not relatively moderate opinions like please use democratic means (there have been several petitions over the years) but nonsense like the guy replying in the pic.

    Probably just a few bad apples though, no widespread racism problems here.
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  • pangolinpangolin Posts: 1,950
    This is well put


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  • tailwindhometailwindhome Posts: 14,581
    It was old and had underlying health issues.
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  • rjsterryrjsterry Posts: 17,258
    edited 8 June
    nickice said:

    If you want to get rid of a statue you do it by democratic means. Or you can form a mob and people will find excuses for you.

    They tried that for years. The Society of Merchant Venturers - the very organisation involved in the slave trade - fought it. When Pero's Bridge was named, this was attacked by some local politicians as being too political and a snub to Colston. Some people would rather forget where the city's wealth came from.
    1985 Mercian King of Mercia - work in progress (Hah! Who am I kidding?)
    Pinnacle Monzonite

    Liberal metropolitan, remoaner, traitor, "sympathiser", etc.
  • pangolinpangolin Posts: 1,950

    It was old and had underlying health issues.

    We've got to ask ourselves why it was involved in a protest in the first place? Should have respected lockdown and stayed home. Seems to me it was looking for trouble.
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  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here
    pangolin said:

    This is well put



  • Darius_JedburghDarius_Jedburgh Posts: 674
    You cannot judge the actions of people in history by the standards of today.

    You can learn from their mistakes but what is done is done
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here

    You cannot judge the actions of people in history by the standards of today.

    You can learn from their mistakes but what is done is done

    Amazing.

    What is the point of history if it's not the contemporary view of the past?

    History is not the same as the past.
  • nickicenickice Posts: 1,295
    rjsterry said:

    nickice said:

    If you want to get rid of a statue you do it by democratic means. Or you can form a mob and people will find excuses for you.

    They tried that for years. The Society of Merchant Venturers - the very organisation involved in the slave trade - fought it. When Pero's Bridge was named, this was attacked by some local politicians as being too political and a snub to Colston. Some people would rather forget where the city's wealth came from.

    Well you don't take it down then. You don't circumvent democracy because you don't like the result.
  • kingstongrahamkingstongraham Posts: 9,580

    You cannot judge the actions of people in history by the standards of today.

    You can learn from their mistakes but what is done is done

    Counterpoint: You can choose not to actively celebrate a slave trader by keeping him on a pedestal in the town with a plaque saying what a great man he was.
    and then the next thing you know
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here
    Olusoga has honestly said anything there is to say on the matter.

    Unless people start conflating the past with history.
  • nickicenickice Posts: 1,295

    You cannot judge the actions of people in history by the standards of today.

    You can learn from their mistakes but what is done is done

    Counterpoint: You can choose not to actively celebrate a slave trader by keeping him on a pedestal in the town with a plaque saying what a great man he was.
    The problem is that it turns out most rich businessmen in the present and the past actually turn out to be c#nts.
  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,110
    So Colston was a slave trader and probably did some things that we think are bad. Like, errr, maybe, a few people did in the17th century. Or the 16th. Or the 18th, or the...

    ... but no, I'm not going to say that it's OK to have a statue to him because he was just doing what most other people at the time would have considered pretty normal.

    On balance I personally* am happy to see his statue go, never mind the veneration with which he is commemorated by Establishment Brizzle.

    But I am quite disturbed by the whole mob rule thing: not so much the mob itself but the cheering on by revolutionary fantasists who can do so quite safely, insulated from the consequences (unlike, for example, the inhabitants of some mostly black inner cities in America which have been blighted for decades - as in never recovering - after rioting and looting).
    Classic comment on twitter this morning crowing about "direct physical democracy". I can feel the frustation of people who have campaigned for years to have Colston's statue removed, or even for the compromise wokesplaining plaque that has been stymied for so long.

    But once you decide that having your political ambitions blocked entitles you to get a mob together...



    *not that anyone should care what I think, of course. FWIW I grew up just outside Bristol, and my prep school used to thrash Colston's Prep on the rugby field all the time ;)
  • pangolinpangolin Posts: 1,950
    nickice said:

    rjsterry said:

    nickice said:

    If you want to get rid of a statue you do it by democratic means. Or you can form a mob and people will find excuses for you.

    They tried that for years. The Society of Merchant Venturers - the very organisation involved in the slave trade - fought it. When Pero's Bridge was named, this was attacked by some local politicians as being too political and a snub to Colston. Some people would rather forget where the city's wealth came from.

    Well you don't take it down then. You don't circumvent democracy because you don't like the result.
    A powerful organisation overruling the wishes of the residents isn't democracy is it? Well actually it is, but that's a separate thread.
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  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here
    edited 8 June

    So Colston was a slave trader and probably did some things that we think are bad. Like, errr, maybe, a few people did in the17th century. Or the 16th. Or the 18th, or the...

    ... but no, I'm not going to say that it's OK to have a statue to him because he was just doing what most other people at the time would have considered pretty normal.

    On balance I personally* am happy to see his statue go, never mind the veneration with which he is commemorated by Establishment Brizzle.

    But I am quite disturbed by the whole mob rule thing: not so much the mob itself but the cheering on by revolutionary fantasists who can do so quite safely, insulated from the consequences (unlike, for example, the inhabitants of some mostly black inner cities in America which have been blighted for decades - as in never recovering - after rioting and looting).
    Classic comment on twitter this morning crowing about "direct physical democracy". I can feel the frustation of people who have campaigned for years to have Colston's statue removed, or even for the compromise wokesplaining plaque that has been stymied for so long.

    But once you decide that having your political ambitions blocked entitles you to get a mob together...



    *not that anyone should care what I think, of course. FWIW I grew up just outside Bristol, and my prep school used to thrash Colston's Prep on the rugby field all the time ;)

    As David said himself, the statue should have been removed properly a long time ago, and it was only for obstinate local townhall types who blocked any attempt to address the obvious issue.

    What this really is, is a symptom of the local leaders not listening to the locals, and refusing to budge up to the point the locals take it into their own hands.

    Should people vandalise statues? No.

    Should it have got to this point? Also no.

    In this specific instance, is it better that it's gone? Yes, probably.
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 5,673
    edited 8 June
    It's probably better it doesn't go back up, maybe stick it in a local museum with some other stuff related to local history.

    I don't think it's totally clear cut and I can understand the existence of the statue causing upset as I can understand the tearing down of a local landmark causing upset.

    Thing is you can erect another statue of something else and let's be honest so many well loved buildings are pulled down in the name of profit it's hard to make the case this statue is of huge importance that something else relating to Bristol's history couldn't replace it.

    The trouble with these things is you can often find a reason why someone isn't deserving of a statue. I mean trafficking slaves is a pretty big reason but you get objections made to statues of Churchill, there's an ongoing debate about whether Thatcher should be remembered with a statue, if it turns out when the papers are released properly that Martin Luther King did indeed encourage a rape should his memorials be torn down?

    Personally I'd rather they put up art work rather than statues of the great and the good in the first place.
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  • nickicenickice Posts: 1,295
    pangolin said:

    nickice said:

    rjsterry said:

    nickice said:

    If you want to get rid of a statue you do it by democratic means. Or you can form a mob and people will find excuses for you.

    They tried that for years. The Society of Merchant Venturers - the very organisation involved in the slave trade - fought it. When Pero's Bridge was named, this was attacked by some local politicians as being too political and a snub to Colston. Some people would rather forget where the city's wealth came from.

    Well you don't take it down then. You don't circumvent democracy because you don't like the result.
    A powerful organisation overruling the wishes of the residents isn't democracy is it? Well actually it is, but that's a separate thread.
    The only information on Wikipedia is that 56% of Bristol residents wanted it to stay in a poll conducted in 2014. What you're saying above happens all the time but people don't take direct mob action to get what they want. Lobby groups have power and that's not going to change. Once politicians see that there chances of reelection are threatened, that's when they act.

    It's really the mob I don't like rather than the sentiment.
  • rjsterryrjsterry Posts: 17,258
    I suppose the point I was trying to raise was that the dithering and obfuscation that stopped the removal of the Colston statue, along with the objections to the naming of Pero's Bridge is part of a general reluctance to address the past and the impact it continues to have on the present. The wealth that the slave trade created is what is still to some extent funding the civic institutions of Bristol (and other cities). It's not just a bad thing that happened long ago.
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    Pinnacle Monzonite

    Liberal metropolitan, remoaner, traitor, "sympathiser", etc.
  • TheBigBeanTheBigBean Posts: 9,557
    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here

    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.

    It did, but it ran out of money in 2008 and a whole bunch of its contents was, unknown to the museum, sold off.
  • rjsterryrjsterry Posts: 17,258

    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.

    Absolutely. Like I mentioned, even naming a bridge after a slave was too much for some, though. A large part of Bristol has been happy to ignore where the money came from.
    1985 Mercian King of Mercia - work in progress (Hah! Who am I kidding?)
    Pinnacle Monzonite

    Liberal metropolitan, remoaner, traitor, "sympathiser", etc.
  • TheBigBeanTheBigBean Posts: 9,557

    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.

    It did, but it ran out of money in 2008 and a whole bunch of its contents was, unknown to the museum, sold off.
    Which museum was that? It is not one I came across.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here

    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.

    It did, but it ran out of money in 2008 and a whole bunch of its contents was, unknown to the museum, sold off.
    Which museum was that? It is not one I came across.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Empire_and_Commonwealth_Museum#:~:text=The museum closed to the,unauthorised disposal of museum objects.
  • TheBigBeanTheBigBean Posts: 9,557

    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.

    It did, but it ran out of money in 2008 and a whole bunch of its contents was, unknown to the museum, sold off.
    Which museum was that? It is not one I came across.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Empire_and_Commonwealth_Museum#:~:text=The museum closed to the,unauthorised disposal of museum objects.
    I didn't visit during the times when that was around, but it wasn't exactly exploring Bristol and its historical involvement in the slave trade. It was also privately funded. It needs a publically funded museum by the docks.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 47,372 Lives Here
    edited 8 June

    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.

    It did, but it ran out of money in 2008 and a whole bunch of its contents was, unknown to the museum, sold off.
    Which museum was that? It is not one I came across.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Empire_and_Commonwealth_Museum#:~:text=The museum closed to the,unauthorised disposal of museum objects.
    I didn't visit during the times when that was around, but it wasn't exactly exploring Bristol and its historical involvement in the slave trade. It was also privately funded. It needs a publically funded museum by the docks.
    I happen to know one of the curators of the museum and they told me otherwise, but since you didn't go I'll take your word over theirs.
  • TheBigBeanTheBigBean Posts: 9,557
    edited 8 June

    Bristol would have done well to copy Liverpool and create a slave trade museum which acknowledged its past.

    It did, but it ran out of money in 2008 and a whole bunch of its contents was, unknown to the museum, sold off.
    Which museum was that? It is not one I came across.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Empire_and_Commonwealth_Museum#:~:text=The museum closed to the,unauthorised disposal of museum objects.
    I didn't visit during the times when that was around, but it wasn't exactly exploring Bristol and its historical involvement in the slave trade. It was also privately funded. It needs a publically funded museum by the docks.
    I happen to know one of the curators of the museum and they told me otherwise, but since you didn't go I'll take your word over theirs.
    I was going on the name and the wikipedia entry.

    I have also been to quite a few slave trade museums around the world. and they almost all by docks.
  • coopster_the_1stcoopster_the_1st Posts: 3,456
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