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Old 07-29-2019, 10:02 AM
Triskadecamus is offline
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Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: I'm coming back, now.
Posts: 7,598
My family has been fairly thoroughly researched. Although I cannot account for all branches prior to their arrival in the US, I have convincing evidence that none of my ancestors owned or sold slaves after immigrating, and fairly strong evidence that none were likely to have owned slaves in their respective native lands. (The research was not specifically oriented on the subject of slave ownership, but did include social information, and personal correspondence and records for those in the US, and records from Europe back to just after 1500.)

A few were actively involved Abolitionists, and some members of churches which opposed slave ownership. Most were not wealthy enough to own slaves. The few who were are well enough known to my family (although not to historians) that their feelings on the subject are also well documented.

I find it odious to claim that the acts of my ancestors convey some sort of righteousness to me. I think it absurd that someone who has slave ancestors thereby has been a specific victim of my ancestors. It is likely that few living American descendent of slaves have no ancestors who were white slave owners. Perpetrators or victims of the atrocity of slavery do not bequeath guilt, or moral obligation from its practice to their descendants. It is possible that property inherited from slave owners might be reasonably held to have clouded title. I own no real estate. Were there living former slaves, or slave owners, I suppose it might be possible to legally address the question of debt among them.

In the case of historically verifiable family estates based on slave ownership it seems reasonable that the descendants of slaves should have recourse to attachment of those properties; perhaps even as a class action versus that estate. But simply living in the country, and not being a slave seems to me to be insufficient cause to support the existence of debt.

If the crime of slave ownership conveys guilt by inheritance, what then of the crimes of theft, murder, fraud, extortion? Shall we enforce ex post facto confiscation of all inherited profit from formerly legal acts?

I feel no guilt for the acts of my ancestors. Not because my ancestors were uniformly innocent of wrongful deeds, but because I am not guilty of things I did not do. I have not profited from slavery. I hold no property because of the exploitation of slaves.

Some of my ancestors fled persecution. Some had their homes taken by invaders. No one owes me any money because of that, because I didn't suffer those losses. The people living where my ancestors once lived are not perpetrators of their ancestors actions, because they didn't do it. If I take someone else's wealth, home, or freedom because of their ancestry, that is my crime.