The Guardian facing calls to 'shut down' over founder's use of slaves and siding against Lincoln in US Civil War

THE GUARDIAN is facing calls to “shut down” for hypocrisy after backing BLM protests when it branded Abraham Lincoln “abhorrent” in the US Civil War.

Originally called the Manchester Guardian, the paper was founded in 1821 by John Edward Taylor using profits from a cotton plantation that used slaves.

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After his death in 1844, the paper is said to have then demanded Manchester’s cotton workers be forced back into work.

Now with a growing backlash against statues linked to slavery and racism, hundreds have signed a petition taking aim at the Guardian's history.

The petition to shut the paper down has been organised by novelist Tony Parsons, who tweeted: “Shameful links to slave-owning Confederate south. Built on the profits of cotton fields. Shut down The Guardian Newspaper.”

During the US Civil War the paper had sided with the southern Confederates against President Lincoln who wanted to abolish slavery.

A leader piece said: “It was an evil day both for America and the world when he was chosen President of the United States.”

On January 2, 1863, it accused Lincoln of having “no desire to abolish slavery except as a means of extrication from the difficulties of government”.

A year and a half later it claimed: “Nor is Mr Lincoln's re-election by fraud, violence, and intimidation rendered a matter of comparatively small importance solely by the fact that it reveals nothing with respect to the real wishes and thoughts of the majority of his fellow countrymen.”

The left-wing paper then responded to Mr Lincoln’s assassination by laying into his presidency.

On April 27 1865, it said: “Of his rule we can never speak except as a series of acts abhorrent to every true notion of constitutional right and human liberty.”

The campaign has nearly 1,000 signatures, including top author Peter Hitchens.

He said: “I do think this (beautifully honest) confession of the SuperWoke Guardian's support for the slave-owning Confederacy (and its furious loathing for Lincoln) in the American Civil War is one of the great discoveries of the day.”

After the death of George Floyd, Confederate statues honouring slave traders are being vandalised and torn down across the country.

The past few weeks have seen the paper issue a fierce defence of those tearing down the statues, with articles such as “The Guardian view on Colston's statue: a long time in going”.

It has even updated its financial contributions request at the bottom of every article in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, adding the paper has covered injustice against ethnic minority communities “for decades”.

Now hundreds have signed the petition laying into The Guardian's “hypocrisy”.

One wrote: “The Guardian, established by a cotton plantation owner using slave labour and being on the side of the Confederates against the abolition of Slavery is still here. Funny old world.”

Another said: “The Guardian may never have been established without financial benefits arising from slavery.”

One added: “All people who have written for the Guardian in the past and right now ought to be ashamed at their support of slavery.”

The newspaper has tried to address its past, with associate editor and columnist Martin Kettle trying to explain it in 2011.

He claimed: “The Guardian's stance on the US civil war was of its era.

“The issue that caused the problem for the Guardian was not slavery. The Guardian had always hated slavery. But it doubted the Union hated slavery to the same degree.”

His piece suggests some things should not be judged by today’s standards.

Last week a minister said there should be no statues of slave traders in modern Britain as protesters drew up a "hit list" of 60 to be removed. 

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi said statues should be removed after a memorial of slaver Edward Colston was dragged down in protests in Bristol.

He suggested statues of slavers should be "put in a museum so we can learn more about the men and women who behaved in all sorts of ways, historically, that is not appropriate in the 21st century."

The tearing down of Colston's statue sparked a furious debate over which people get honoured with memorials in Britain, and a statue in London of 18th century slave trader Robert Milligan was also taken down.

Recent days have also seen demonstrators gather in cities across the UK saying they want to protect statues and memorials from being defaced by anti-racism protesters.

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