The Return – Exits and Entrances

–My heritage, part six

In a similar vein the Portuguese of today do not approve of slavery and  I propose they should not be held guilty for their ancestors involvement with slavery, Almost all of  the free no matter of what race religion or color, in most if not all lands seem to have accepted  slavery as the norm in the first two centuries of the development of the New World.

Is it possible to view anyone (including my own ancestors) alive in those times  in any way positively – no matter what good they achieved in life?  Can a blind acceptor of slavery as being the norm who consumes perhaps unwittingly, the products of slave labor and generally benefits from an economy enhanced by their labor better be considered a good person? Is he a better person than the slave owner who at least recognizes to some extent that slavery is bad and considers slaves should be treated better, work less hours , have better nourishment and have better accommodation and uses their  labor to create the better life for people like the blind beneficiary? He may not have seen slavery as the real evil it was but surely in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king. If only there had been someone with two eyes!

There was at least one . Family member, Manuel Fernandes Vila Real, a man of many talents spanning diplomacy, business, writing and more, wrote these profound  words:

Making slaves out of those whom nature has created free is not an act of obedience to God but a negation of His work.

Manuel was a man with views far ahead of his time and one of the good who died young – a patriot but nevertheless was burnt  at the stake because of his religion.

We cannot change history but we can change the future. We now all consider slavery to be evil yet we still let it happen. Are we not culpable? As I write, children are working for  a pittance in mines in Madagascar and the  Congo. Apple, Google; Dell, Microsoft and Tesla were named in a lawsuit over Congolese cobalt mining deaths of children because 60% of Cobalt comes from DRC. My hand held phone on which I can read this is cheaper because of child labour. NBC recently reported on children laboring for pennies mining mica in Madagascar – the source of most of the world’s production. Mica is used in every car, plane and hand held phone. Do we immediately stop buying those products? No – slaves need these pittances to survive. Simply ending  their employment is not the answer. Ensuring they can live without it is the essential  precursor.

Many feel the descendents of  the enslaved, the massacred and the oppressed of years gone by , should view themselves as being victims entitled to compensation from descendents of  the victors in wars ,  of the perpetrators of massacres and  of those who  helped create empires or of those who enslaved others. How many generations do you think victims should  go back in ascertaining past events that give them  a right to compensation today and by whom should it now be payable? Contemplate this : each of us has 2000 plus ninth great grandparents and 4000 plus  tenth  great grandparents. Can there be anyone who is not descended from both guilty ancestors  and innocent victims? Surely it is a pointless exercise trying to categorise ourselves as  either.

Some might argue that a line should be drawn at events occurring say in the days of their  fifth grandparents. However the causes of those events would include events happening before the generation where we drew the line. This  would make the drawing of a line a pointless exercise. Rather we need to combat today’s  prejudices by treating  everyone as being potentially deserving of the same respect. We should encourage them not to view themselves as losers and victims. Collectively we should all seek to help the underprivileged regardless of their race, religion or color. To be clear this would mean that someone who  is underprivileged would not expect to be preferred over an equally unprivileged person of another race, religion or color. We should all be part of one world working collectively for the common good with any liability in respect past events being a liability which we bear  jointly because there is  no one out there from the past to recompense us. No one today should encourage others to hate anyone because of the actions of their ancestors centuries ago. Even as to recent words and  actions we should learn from  Nelson Mandela who encouraged South Africans of all colors to admit to their  sins of the past to each other and then move on.

What can we  learn from the historical  events  that were the backdrop for this saga? That there should be no more slavery yet as I have recounted there is still slavery. That there should be no more antisemitism  yet in modern times antisemitism is on the increase after six million died in the Holocaust. No massacres yet over 1.5 million died in the Cambodian genocide and Stalin is said to have deliberately  killed 6 million in  USSR. That no more empires should be created yet there are still those seeking to create empires.

What do I consider is the legacy left by those mega rich influential family members of mine who lived in  Portugal, Spain and France? They certainly did not pass wealth down my English based family line but undoubtedly contributed   to the positive development of the New World in ways we would not applaud today. They did help obtain the freedom of Portugal from Spain.  They sought religious freedom which resulted in a major success in England which is still there today.

The batn was passed on to English resident family members who helped consolidate the freedom for Jewry in England and whose only significant contact there with royalty were petitions for the right to pray. Their legacy is their contribution to the firming  of our freedom to worship and to ensuring the building of Bevis   Marks where my son married.

Abraham Lopes de Oliveira left us the tangible legacy of his crafted works which are tangible and sell for fantastic sums. He is remembered for something good untainted by empire creation and other activities where slavery is automatically a component,

Concluding with the legacy words of Manuel Fernandes feels appropriate.

Making slaves out of those whom nature has created free is not an act of obedience to God but a negation of His work.


Clive Russell
Clive Russell
CLIVE currently serves as Joint President of Russell Business LLC (“RB”), which is the collective name for a community of synergistic and complementary activities and businesses encompassing the International Property Market. RB is engaged in business activities that combine cutting-edge structured finance and technology geared to maximize returns from various sectors, including residential and commercial property, hotels and energy-related assets. Over the years, Clive’s forte’ has been the ability to develop and/or identify “below the radar” concepts, strategies and opportunities ripe for leveraging and ultimate success.

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  1. Hi Clive,
    I hope you get this message as I believe we are related. Abraham and Simha are my 6th grandparents. They had four daughters, two of whom you mentioned, Esther and Leah, and the other two were Rebecca and child 5, Rachel. Rachel is my 5th grandmother. She married Benjamin Isaacs and their youngest son Lewis married his first cousin, Simelia, daughter of Leah and Lazarus Phillips. Rachel and Benjamin’s oldest son Abraham is my 4th grandfather.
    I was so interested to read your article!
    Thank you