The Church of England today launched an investigation to determine if the £ 9billion investment fund that pays the Archbishop of Canterbury’s £ 85,000 a year salary could be tainted with money from slavery.
The Church risks damaging the “reputation” of how its historic assets may have been built on the proceeds of slavery, according to a report.
The warning of possible links was made public in a report from the Church’s financial arm, Church Commissioners.
The Church risks damaging the “reputation” of how its historic assets may have been built on the proceeds of slavery, according to a report. In the photo, Lambeth Palace
The £ 9.2 billion investment fund pays the £ 85,000 a year salary of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, alongside other high-ranking bishops
South Sea Company: The origins of the slave trade in Britain’s most notorious financial bubble
The South Sea Company is best known today for being the subject of a period of savage financial speculation known as the South Sea Bubble, but what the company was created for is less well known.
Founded in 1711 for the purpose of clearing Britain’s sovereign debts, the company gained a monopoly on supplying 4,800 slaves per year to the Spanish colonies in South America, assuming Britain would be able to enter into a treaty with Spain to authorize trade. .
But the treaty was less favorable than expected, allowing only one shipment of slaves per year and imposing a tax on human cargo. A trip took place in 1717 with limited success, but a year later investor confidence was bolstered by King George I becoming governor of the company.
Three years later, the company took over the management of all public debt after ministers pocketed bribes, causing the share price to skyrocket, by £ 100 in 1719. over £ 1,000 in August 1720.
However, with the company making virtually no profit and being unable to carry more than one slave ship per year, it soon became clear that the high stock price was based only on speculation.
The ensuing crash wiped out the fortunes of thousands of investors, including Sir Isaac Newton, who lost several million pounds in current terms. An investigation found that at least three government ministers had accepted bribes to allow the South Sea Company to take over the national debt. The Bubble Act was introduced with the aim of avoiding similar financial crises in the future.
However, the Company survived the bubble and will make 96 voyages in 25 years, buying 34,000 slaves of which 30,000 survived crossing the Atlantic, according to research by historian David Eltis. This gave a crossings mortality rate of about 11%.
Source: Britannica and others.
He said there could be problems ahead regarding the holdings of his 19th century predecessor, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and in particular the fund known as Queen Anne’s Bounty which has become a hallmark of the finances of the Church in 1704.
The money, passed to the Church by the Crown, was intended to buy land for poor parishes but was often invested instead in financial speculation.
Some of the money was invested in annuities in the South Sea Company, which had a monopoly on transporting slaves from Africa to the Spanish colonies in South America.
The commissioners are headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Justin Welby, and pay his salary of £ 85,070, alongside those of the other bishops.
They also maintain Lambeth Palace, the seat houses of other bishops, and make a significant contribution to the functioning of cathedrals.
Their holdings, which reached £ 9.2 billion last year, pay about £ 1 out of £ 6 spent by the Church and have been used to bail out the CofE when churches were shut down during the pandemic.
The cloud over CofE’s investment fund marks the third time the Church has been embarrassed by its past desire to profit from slavery.
The first apologies were made 15 years ago for Anglican ownership of Caribbean sugar cane plantations operated by slaves.
Last year there were further denunciations of at least 100 clergy who made money from slavery before it was abolished in the British Empire in 1834.
Yesterday’s commissioners report said, “Church commissioners have established a subgroup of the board to research the issue of historical links to transatlantic slavery.
“Long-established endowments can pose a reputational risk related to the possibility that their original source, or an early investment of funds, has links to the slave trade.
This could be the case for the original Queen Anne’s Bounty and Ecclesiastical Commissioners fonds.
A spokesperson for the Commissioners said: “Like many organizations, we are examining our past and commissioned external research into the origins of our predecessors.
“We are doing this work on our own to better understand where our funding is coming from and to see if our predecessor organizations had links to or benefited from the historic transatlantic slave trade.”
Last year, Archbishop Welby acknowledged the Church’s historic involvement in slavery, declaring in a sermon from his past “to bring baggage.”
Part of the Church’s money was invested in annuities in the South Sea Company, which had a monopoly on transporting slaves from Africa to the Spanish colonies in South America. He is best known as the subject of the South Sea Bubble (depicted here in a print by Hogarth)
He said: “We find saints and slave traders, the proud and prelatic, with the humble servant of the people. They are part of us, of our heritage, to reform, to repent, to imitate.
The archbishop also said that some statues and memorials in churches and cathedrals to questionable figures “will have to fall”.
But in May, a report prepared by Church officials advised against removing or destroying church monuments, saying that “from a Christian perspective, every memorial is a memorial to a sinner, too. complete as any homage to his life, character and achievements can be, and the final moral calculation over all our lives is known to God alone.