Anti-slavery MP lands on list of Brits with ‘links to the slave trade’
The famous 18th century Irish philosopher and critic of the slave trade, Edmund Burke, has been listed as a person whose imagery may not be appropriate for the UK Parliament in the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.
Burke, a Dublin-born statesman who is credited for being a key founding figure of conservatism, served as an MP between 1766 and 1794. However, modern-day British lawmakers have questioned whether his legacy should be cherished.
His name was listed among “individuals and activities related to the British slave trade and the use of forced labour,” as part of a review of the parliament’s art collection launched in 2020 in response to the BLM protests. The contradiction between Burke’s well-documented anti-slavery position and his name being on the list was highlighted on Wednesday by The Telegraph newspaper.
“It’s definitely nonsense that Burke was a supporter of the slave trade. He was a critic of slavery from his first recorded views. He found it abhorrent,” Prof. Richard Bourke, a Burke expert and professor of political thought at King’s College Cambridge, told the daily.
Burke was added to the list not because of what he did or said but because of his younger brother, Richard. A 2013 review by English Heritage described him as “a successful merchant and Caribbean land speculator,” based on a book written by contemporary author William Burke, who may have been Edmund’s kinsman.
The 2020 list of supposedly questionable art lists seven depictions of Edmund Burke in Parliament’s collection, including a photo, three prints, a painting and two sculptures.
His life-size monument stands in St Stephen’s Hall inside the Palace of Westminster, while the portrait is displayed in the Member’s Dining Room, according to The Telegraph.