Far from contributing to the slave trade’s abolition, Dundas’s ‘gradual abolition’ resulted in an immediate, devastating and unprecedented escalation of transatlantic human trafficking. Where does the truth lie? Apologists for Dundas point to his role as an advocate representing an Afro-Jamaican man, Joseph Knight, in his freedom suit in Scotland in the 1770s, as evidence of Dundas’ abolitionism. The period from 1793-1807, after Parliament agreed to ‘gradual’ abolition’, witnessed the most consistently high volume of Africans transported to the British Caribbean in the entire history of the slave trade (574,370, or an average of 38,391 per year). I am a historian by profession. But now clamour is growing for the removal of the statue of Henry Dundas, the 1st Viscount Melville, from St Andrew Square in Edinburgh as awareness has … It was entirely possible to oppose slavery in Great Britain while supporting both slave trafficking and slavery elsewhere in the empire. In a recent public event, Diana Paton, William Robertson Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh, accurately summed up the debate among serious scholars of the slave trade about whether or not Dundas was an abolitionist by stating emphatically that there is no such debate. Between 1793 and 1798, across the Caribbean, 40,000 British troops, most of them sent there by Dundas, died or were incapacitated in a bloody struggle to expand the frontiers of British slavery. Napoleon reimposed slavery across the empire in 1802, but he too was unable to defeat the rebels. He added: “Henry Dundas has very little if any impact on British North America other than the fact he purposely obstructed the abolition of slavery and other than the fact he happened to one mates with John Graves Simcoe. Meanwhile, in Grenada, Dundas’s forces suppressed an abolitionist uprising that lasted for eighteen months from 1795-96, led by enslaved people and a free man of colour named Julien Fédon. Sound historical analysis cannot just take historical figures at their word. The report noted staff had confirmed Dundas Street was named in 1793 by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, in honour of Henry Dundas, then Great Britain’s Home Secretary. I have men like Dundas to thank for that. Only one active session is allowed per subscriber. Quite predictably, this bill died in the House of Lords. The colonial government ordered the transportation of thousands of indigenous Vincentians to nearby Balliceaux Island, where British forces held 4,476 Garifunas prisoners for months. The Henry Dundas Committee for Public Education on Historic Scotland  wishes to highlight important evidence that has been ignored — evidence that shows that Dundas was an abolitionist. Every day we move through streetscapes, pass under the shadow of monuments, learn in buildings and live in towns named for the architects of the structural forms of violence that continue to shape Black and Indigenous lives, limit our choices, destroy our health and kill our children. It ended up forming much … Log in for full access to stabroeknews.com. Even with all of my training, I could go through the cargo lists of a thousand slave ships and see the name of my own first ancestor in the Americas… and I would never know I had read it. These debates are not new to the Caribbean and Colston was not the first slave trader whose monument ended up in the ocean. Since the 1750s, enslaved people in Britain like Knight and Somersett, as well as Black and white abolitionists, had challenged slaveholding in metropolitan Britain. In 1804, Saint Domingue became independent from France as Haiti, the second independent state in the Americas. Haitian independence, the Louisiana Purchase and the end of the Pitt era in Parliament are the backdrop to British slave trade abolition in 1807. Scholarly work about Henry Dundas has virtually ignored his handling of indigenous interests in the North American territories controlled by Britain. I have spent countless hours in the archives of the British empire. Mr Lochend, who began the petition, told Toronto’s National Post that keeping Dundas’ name on the street was ‘particularly galling’. This island is the homeland (yurumei) of the Garifuna, the Afro-indigenous descendants of African fugitives from enslavement and the indigenous people for whom the Caribbean region was misnamed. Until recently, few Scots who stood under Edinburgh’s Melville monument or sauntered along Dundas Street; Canadians who walked down Toronto’s Dundas Street or gathered in Dundas Square; and residents of Dundas, Ontario, knew or cared about Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, (1742-1811) and his support for the slave trade. Across the pond, Dundas Street is a major historic arterial road in Ontario. ©JPIMedia Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. During a press briefing this week, Mr Tory said: “We have been clear about that, at the same time acknowledging that it still exists in 21st century Toronto and that there has been plenty of anti-Black racism in Toronto's past. This essay was first carried on opendemocracy on July 30, 2020: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/henry-dundas-empire-and-genocide/?fbclid=IwAR08KX_7Ghhk8ZQW491U7IlvDQKS-9L5ijuK4IpKXSfRReXs2phhkvQMSC8. Britain slunk out of Saint Domingue in defeat as Napoleon rose to power in 1798-99. This is a counter petition of this petition calling to rename a major street in Toronto. Those options include renaming Dundas Street as well as other city streets and city assets carrying the Dundas name, retaining the name but adding ceremonial street names and other signage that will address the legacy of Henry Dundas or retaining the name while renaming other city assets with Dundas in its name, such as Yonge-Dundas Square. on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. On street names and monuments: Toronto's Dundas Street is named after Henry Dundas, the 1st Viscount Melville. No scholar who is really committed to this subject thinks Dundas was an abolitionist. In 1796, he opposed immediate abolition as politically inconvenient in the context of the British war against emancipation, racial equality and democracy in France and the Caribbean. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/henry-dundas-empire-and-genocide/?fbclid=IwAR08KX_7Ghhk8ZQW491U7IlvDQKS-9L5ijuK4IpKXSfRReXs2phhkvQMSC8, Understanding ourselves: Confronting shame, blame and internalised racisms: Reimagining the future? Toronto Mayor John Tory will look into changing the name of the street and a task force will be assembled within 30 days to look into the matter. Half of the prisoners died and the survivors were then exiled to Central America. These men were celebrated not in spite of the fact that they were white supremacists and, in some cases, mass murderers… but because of it. The answer, obviously, is no. The supposed intentions of a historical figure like Dundas, dead for more than 200 years, are rarely knowable after the fact. Until recently, few Scots who stood under the shadow of Edinburgh’s Melville Monument or sauntered along Dundas Street; or Canadians who walked down Toronto’s Dundas Street and gathered in Dundas Square, or residents of Dundas, Ontario, knew or cared that Henry Dundas (1742-1811), first Viscount Melville, was Home Secretary from 1791 to 1794, Minister for War and Colonies from 1794 to 1801 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1804 to 1805. HIS name was usually only known to students of Scottish history and researchers in the slave trade. To be Black or Indigenous in North America and Europe is to live in the built environment of white supremacy, the physical embodiment of the apocalypse of colonisation and slavery. Last week Martinicans dragged the statue of Empress Joséphine – wife of Napoleon and daughter of the slave owning De Beauharnais family – off of her pedestal in Parque de la Savane in Fort-de-France. Dundas had nothing to do with the eventual success of slave trade abolition. Mr Lochend had been inspired by the petition originating in Edinburgh which called to remove the Henry Dundas statue from St Andrew Square’s Melville Monument. City Hall. Was he responsible for cynically delaying the abolition of slavery? The petition states that Scottish politician Henry Dundas, whom Dundas Street is named for, has a “highly problematic” legacy which saw him participate in … Please register or log in to comment on this article. Delivered every morning. Dundas’s namesake has been deeply emblazoned across the province. The road connects the city of Toronto with its western suburbs and several cities in southwestern part of the province. Dundas defended these actions, stating that “The Maroons had been treated with humanity and attention.”. Henry's - Canada’s digital camera store. The word ‘genocide’ was not available in the eighteenth century but Dundas’s St. Vincent policy was a shocking and, even by the low standards of amoral political pragmatism, completely unnecessary orgy of violence and racial hatred. Genealogy profile for Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville Henry Dundas (1742 - 1811) - Genealogy Genealogy for Henry Dundas (1742 - 1811) family tree on Geni, with over 200 million profiles of ancestors and living relatives. Gaining control of the French colony of Saint Domingue, the most profitable slaveholding colony of the age, was his central aim. The name “Dundas Street” has existed in what is now known as Toronto from at least the early 1800s. Across the United States, confederate monuments and symbols have been torn down or banned from public life. In the 1790s, faced with the epoch-defining choice to either align Great Britain with freedom or slavery, British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and his ministers unequivocally chose slavery. Like Edinburgh, Toronto’s Dundas Street is named after Henry Dundas, the 18th century Scottish politician who delayed Britain’s abolition of slavery by 15 years. Toronto City Council is to launch a public consultation over renaming a street named after 18th-century Scottish politician Henry Dundas. Henry Dundas, Empire and Genocide By Melanie J. Newton Melanie J. Newton is an Associate Professor of History and the former Director of the Caribbean Studies Program at the University of Toronto. Perhaps the most powerful example of this transnational imperial past is the current public debate in Scotland and Canada about memorials to Henry Dundas. He held a lot of power when, realistically, no one overseeing how The case led to a 1778 ruling, similar to the more famous decision in the 1772 case of enslaved man James Somersett, in which an English judge ruled that there was no positive law in England that could empower a slave owner to force an enslaved person back to a slaveholding jurisdiction. The claim is that the person after whom the street is named, Edinburgh Scotland’s Henry Dundas, First Viscount Melville, has a history of working against the movement for racial equality in addition to being impeached as a British MP. Parliamentary critics presented evidence that the British had used dogs to hunt Maroons down. As Secretary of State for War and Colonies, Dundas prioritised seizing France’s Caribbean slaveholding empire “with the view of enlarging our national wealth and security”. Was Dundas a corrupt scoundrel who deserved both his impeachment in 1806 and his nicknames, ‘The Great Tyrant’ and ‘The Uncrowned King of Scotland’? Does the name Dundas matter? In response to a public campaign, Edinburgh City Council has decided to proceed with a plaque on the Melville monument acknowledging Dundas’s role as a defender of the slave trade. However, these essentially echoed the goals of the 1788 Consolidated Slave Law, passed by the slaveowner-controlled Jamaican House of Assembly, which were meant to preserve slavery, not abolish it. Haitian independence (which the UK did not recognise). An individual’s historical relevance is also about their actions, and the reasonably foreseeable consequences of those actions. Such claims, when they appear in newspapers, unsupported by actual evidence, do disservice to the public’s intelligence and exploit the presumed ignorance of ordinary people, most of whom are not taught this history and would not themselves always have the factual basis to access such problematic analysis. Or was he a pragmatic abolitionist, whose intervention in one of the most important debates in British parliamentary history rescued abolition from certain defeat? These kinds of superficial arguments suggest a selective reading of complex historical materials. We can never know whether or not that might have been true; to pursue counterfactualism as truth is to enter the realm of “alternative facts”. A petition went up today on the site You.leadnow.ca to change the name of Dundas Street in Toronto. City staff have confirmed that the road was named in 1793 by John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, in honour of Scottish politician Henry Dundas, First Viscount Melville. I can never find that name, it is lost to history, it is lost to me. Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville Henry Dundas Wiki Henry Dundas was not a good guy. In his petition, Lochhead said Henry Dundas participated in obstructing the abolition of slavery in the British Empire from 1791 to the end of his political career in 1806. Edinburgh’s Dundas Street has been hit with graffiti and posted signs which state ‘Son of slaver Dundas + Colonialist Profiteer’. But I would say, to those who think that what ‘matters’ is so straightforward, that my first ancestor in this hemisphere probably came over in the hold of a slave ship, likely to Barbados, where I was born. Noble descendant of Henry Dundas calls in to defend ancestor in street renaming debate ... 2020. Not far away lay St. Vincent, the main island in the modern-day multi-island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The weight of the evidence – that Dundas was a man dedicated to a vision of empire built on the mass enslavement of Black people and the mass slaughter of Indigenous Americans – is overwhelming. The spotlight in Toronto has been on Dundas Street, the major artery that snakes from the city centre far into the suburbs and beyond. In its second public debate about this issue in three decades, the government of my own country, Barbados, plans to remove the 207-year-old statue of Horatio Nelson, hero of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar that helped to preserve Britain’s slaveholding Caribbean empire. But interpreting the role of Henry Dundas in the abolition of slavery “is complicated,” the report noted. The Melville Monument has also been subject to graffiti but it has been agreed by the council the statue will be dedicated to slavery victims with a new plaque set to be added which will explain Dundas’ links to the slave trade. In 1795, Dundas threw Britain’s military might against a combined French and Garifuna force for control of the island. Dundas was a Scottish aristocrat and key British cabinet member under William Pitt the Younger. Shop online for new, used and demo digital cameras, buy digital SLRs and video cameras. Want to join the conversation? He was the trusted lieutenant of British prime minister William Pitt, and the most powerful politician in Scotland in the latter decades of the 18th century. Melanie J. Newton is an Associate Professor of History and the former Director of the Caribbean Studies Program at the University of Toronto. Abolitionists certainly did not see Dundas as one of them; in 1806 abolitionist Charles James Fox described Dundas as the man “who took a lead in constantly opposing our attempts at a total and immediate abolition” even though he knew the trade “to be adverse to policy, humanity, and justice.”. You can also post comments, and manage your email subscription. It was banished to the Georgetown Botanical Gardens in 1970 when Guyana became a Co-operative Republic, but returned to its original location in front of the law courts in 1990. The ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement has also reignited, with protesters in South Africa and at Oxford University, Cecil Rhodes’ alma mater and mine, calling for the removal of monuments to one of apartheid’s most important architects. Dundas was a powerful politician who, among many things, is … Then as now, lawyers’ arguments in court cannot simply be taken as evidence of their own personal beliefs. It is irresponsible revisionism for certain historians to assert, on the basis of no sound evidence, that, had it not been for the unfortunate business of the war with France, Dundas would have supported abolition. A local artist in the Canadian city, Andrew Lochend began a petition to rename Toronto’s Dundas Street on Wednesday which had since amassed thousands of supporters. In 1795, MPs accused Dundas of allowing British forces to commit atrocities against the Jamaican Maroons of Trelawney Town, a free black community with whom Britain had signed a treaty in 1740. Over the last few months, Dundas has been politically exhumed on both sides of the Atlantic. It is very clear that every one of Dundas’ interventions into the abolition debate, and his policies as Minister for War and Colonies, served immediately to buttress the influence of slave owners and slave traders and commit Great Britain even more deeply to slavery. 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