June 21, 2013

Bush Isn't Only Pres With Slaver Ancestor

This story -- about a Bush ancestor in the 1700s -- has caused a minor stir among the Left online.

BUNCE ISLAND, Sierra Leone—Twelve American presidents owned slaves, eight while serving in office, and at least 25 presidents count slave owners among their ancestors. But new historical evidence shows that a direct ancestor of George W. and George H.W. Bush was part of a much more appalling group: Thomas Walker was a notorious slave trader active in the late 18th century along the coast of West Africa.

Walker, George H.W. Bush's great-great-great grandfather, was the captain of, master of, or investor in at least 11 slaving voyages to West Africa between 1784 and 1792.

Scores of European merchants and American plantation owners grew rich on the trade that transported more than 10 million Africans to North America, the Caribbean, and Brazil between 1550 and 1850. Bush's family, like many others, has previously been identified as slave owners in the United States. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, at least five Walker family households, George W. Bush’s ancestors by his father’s mother, owned slaves in Maryland’s Cecil County

Aside from being a minor historical curiosity, this story ought to be a big "so what". After all, we are going back six generations to find that connection -- enough that there are 64 ancestors in that generation. It is fairly likely that one can find something scandalous about one's family if one goes back that far. That isn't a justification or dismissal of the slave trade -- it is a dismissal of the relevance of the connection to either of the two Bush presidents, their characters or their policies.

Especially since the article notes that 25 American presidents have had ancestors who owned slaves, twelve were slave owners themselves and eight actually owned slaves while in the White House.

And as I noted on this blog a couple of years back, Barack Obama is one of those 25 presidents. We can document the slave-owning heritage on his mother's side of the family -- and it is quite likely also found on his Kenyan father's side of the family as well, given the prevalence of the institution on the African continent generally and in particular in Kenya. In fact, the Lou tribe from of which Obama is a descendant is notorious for its slave-trading history. That heritage says nothing about Obama's character, either.

H/T Urban Grounds & Althouse

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