Letter: History repeats itself

EastBayRI.com ·

To the editor:

The politically correct Left has once again reared its ugly head with its recent obsession with cultural cleansing. Like Isis blowing up ancient landmarks, like the Taliban smashing monuments and the Communist demolishing Buddhist temples in Tibet, the Left has embarked on a campaign of destruction hoping to remove the impurities of the past and homogenize the history of our country. 

Starting in Virginia with a statue of Robert E. Lee, some people want to erase the fact that this person was so important that a lot of people wanted this huge statue to honor him. According to the Left, all it does is represent bigotry and hate so it must be removed.

Let's bring it on home and see how well that system of logic works for the good people of Bristol and everyone else for that matter, as we all cope with our former slave trading aristocracy that is fundamental to our colonial past.

During the 18th century, Bristol was the epicenter for the slave trade in the western hemisphere. Just like today's Silicon Valley, enterprising individuals in colonial Bristol directly and indirectly made the modern day equivalent of millions of dollars from the business of selling human souls into slavery. It's estimated that over 100,000 men, woman and children were sold until it finally ended. Rhode Island, at times, controlled as much as 90 percent of the slave trade and that ain't peanuts.

The De Wolf family of Bristol built their fortune on the slave trade. By the end of the 1700s the De Wolfs were the second richest family in colonial America.

Even after Rhode Island and federal law prohibited selling slaves, the De Wolfs illegally continued the practice until Congress in 1820 made hanging the punishment for importing and selling slaves.

Rumstick Point in Barrington was one place where rum was loaded onto ships that sailed to Africa where it was traded for humans. Barneyville, just over the town line, was where the ships used in the slave trade were built.

Isn't that nice?

To this very day, descendants of the De Wolf family and others live off of the wealth accumulated during the dark days of the slave trade. There are several things in Bristol named after these families that are notorious for their slave trading past. Most conspicuous is that huge white mansion in the center of Bristol that stands as a testament to the riches gained through countless human sufferings. The wildly extravagant, Linden Place, more than a monument, it's a sumptuous palace that crackles with excess.

People get married there, now. I wonder how many blacks do that. My guess is none.

Should the De Wolf name be erased from our culture? Should Linden Place be demolished and replaced with a memorial to the suffering of the slaves who built it in the first place? Would historical preservationist turn out and protest that? Would they be accused of being white supremacists for wanting to save history? Should the descendants bearing the De Wolf name be ashamed, change their name and give away all the money they've had for hundreds of years to pay for their ancestors' sins?

If your answer is "no" then congratulations. Let's focus on things that really matter and stop acting like Isis, Taliban, and the Communist. 

We can't change the past by destroying things we don't like but we can embrace it, learn from it and create a better future.

Like Robert E. Lee, the slave trading De Wolfs are all dead now and can't hurt anybody anymore. What good is bullying and hurting each other? That's not very progressive or liberal or democratic, just the opposite. 

It's fool's folly born from ignorance and intolerance, destined for failure and more historical embarassment.

Alan Sorrentino