Those politicians and pedagogues who agitate for slavery reparations in the United States should consider what would happen if the descendants of slaves around the world sought the same from the countries in which their ancestors were enslaved. “Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans—more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed,” economist Thomas Sowell writes. “The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking cotton.”
“But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to ‘Roots,’ and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.” Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who has taught at Rutgers, Amherst, Brandeis and UCLA.
“Only the fact that the West had more firepower than others put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism,” Sowell argues. “Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery—on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.”
Ironically, left-wing scholar and scribe Christopher Hitchens said pretty much the same thing in a lecture that Sean Grindlay covered for Accuracy in Academia in 2004. “I wondered what the second part of ‘Rule Britannia’ was all about, the line that goes, ‘Britons never shall be slaves,’” the British-born Hitchens said in a lecture he gave on Capitol Hill for the Objectivist Center. “So I looked into it.”
“It was well worth the effort.”
“From the 17th to the early 19th centuries, over one million white Europeans were enslaved by pirates from the Barbary States of northern Africa,” Grindlay wrote. “Because of the ‘abysmal state of education today,’ however, few schoolchildren—or adults, for that matter—are even aware of this significant part of world history, according to Hitchens.”
“Barbary pirates would capture passengers on European ships and even snatch the inhabitants of towns and cities near European shores.” Hitchens himself has taught at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, not exactly a bastion of traditional education that boosts Western Civilization.
“Most of these slaves spent the rest of their lives doing hard labor for Muslim masters in northern Africa or manning the oars on Barbary galleys, although many of the women ended up in a harem,” Grindlay reported. “Contrary to what most of today’s students have been taught, the institution of slavery has not always been intertwined with race, Hitchens said.”
“Barbary pirates enslaved both whites from Europe and blacks from the western coast of Africa, building a slave empire on a north-south axis extending from the British Isles to the tropics.”
“Although Thomas Jefferson is often criticized by modern historians for his actions regarding slavery, Hitchens noted that the third president had been a longtime opponent of the Barbary slave trade. In fact, Jefferson eagerly sent Marines to the Mediterranean Sea to fight the Barbary pirates, who had been demanding ever-increasing tribute payments as a condition for refraining from attacking American ships and enslaving their passengers.”
It is worth noting that the U. S. Marine Corps anthem begins, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” Moreover, those in the media and academia who would characterize TEA Party attendees as barbarians should cogitate on exactly where the root word of that epithet comes from. Here’s a hint, it comes from the 14th Century.
“The Barbary States of North Africa had plundered seaborne commerce for centuries,” according to the U. S. Navy. “They demanded tribute money, seized ships, and held crews for ransom or sold them into slavery.”
“To combat these outrages, the United States sent naval squadrons into the Mediterranean. Under the leadership of Commodores Richard Dale and Edward Preble, the Navy blockaded the enemy coast, bombarded his shore fortresses, and engaged in close, bitterly contested gunboat actions.”
“Lieutenant Stephen Decatur’s exploit in destroying the captured frigate USS Philadelphia, and Captain Richard Somers attempt with the fire-ship USS Intrepid to blow up enemy vessels in Tripoli harbor, set valorous examples for the young naval service. Gradual withdrawal of the U.S. Navy led the Barbary powers to renew their age-old piratical practices.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.