The British Treasury came under fire this month after a tweet revealing that British taxpayers in 2015 were still paying off debt borrowed by the government to compensate slave owners in 1833, RT reported.
The damning revelation came to light under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, after which the Treasury disclosed that the £20 million ($28 million) the government spent to reimburse some of Britain’s richest businessmen, who also happened to own slaves, took taxpayers nearly 200 years to pay off.
“Here’s today’s surprising #FridayFact,” the Treasury tweeted on Feb. 10. “Millions of you helped end slave trade through your taxes.”
The tweet, which was accompanied by an infographic, explained that Britain used 40 percent of its national budget to buy the freedom of all slaves in the empire. However, the amount borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so great that took until 2015 to pay it all off.
“[This] means that living British citizens helped pay to end the slave trade,” the tweet added.
Social media users were not amused. The post received so much backlash that the Treasury was forced to take it down. However, the damage had already been done.
Some users pointed to the fact that slave descendants were never granted reparations, yet were likely paying taxes to compensate slave owners. Others were angered by the lighthearted language of the post in general.
— Cleo Eco Lake (@CleoDanceBaton) February 10, 2018
Does this mean we’ve been compensating the descendents of slave owners all these years? Disgusting, if so.
— Zoe (@Londonechoes) February 9, 2018
Am I right in thinking that means that descendants of slaves – who never got any compensaiton – have been paying for the compensation paid to slave-owners? Ah, well – another fact for our book on how slavery paid for Bath’s growth in the 18th century. Research is in progress.
— KirstenElliottSwift #FBProEU (@KirstenTElliott) February 10, 2018
HM Treasury tweet about our taxes helped pay off slavery debt has pissed me off this month completely. Me and my living/dead ancestors has paid slave owners compensation. Who doesn't believe in reparations is delusional.
— S☆R (@TheSARProgram) February 20, 2018
Paying off debt for something you started. Killing billions of lives with remnants of the slave trade present today in form of overt and systemic racism….and you want a pat on the back? I’m actually done pic.twitter.com/JRnKTDCuDY
— Tsemaye Bob-Egbe (@Tsemaye_BE) February 17, 2018
“The real question is why anyone thought this was ok?” historian David Olusoga, who has written about the British slave trade, told the Bristol Post. “I really do think we’re getting better at accepting the UK’s role in slavery and the slave trade, but things like this make me question my optimism.”
“Also, just to compound the general level of ignorance, when HM Treasury reduce the complex story of the abolition of slavery to one of their fun ‘Friday Facts’ they use an irrelevant image of the slave trade – which was abolished three decades earlier,” he added.