Minnesotans to Pay Reparations For Slavery?

Reparations for slavery is an idea that, at best, is idiotic. More often it is malicious. Why people who never owned slaves should write checks to people who never were slaves is inexplicable. But insanity has its degrees, and this one takes the cake: Democratic Party legislators have introduced a bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives to create a $100 million fund to pay slavery reparations to descendants of 18th- or 19th-century slaves who now reside in Minnesota. It also calls for multiple apologies. You can read the bill here.

What makes this even crazier than most calls for reparations is that Minnesota became a state in 1858, just in time to fight on the Union side in the Civil War. Minnesota volunteers served in that conflict with great distinction, and at great cost. The First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment, on the second day at Gettysburg, suffered the highest percentage of casualties in a single engagement of any unit in the history of the United States Army, to this day. They did this by carrying out one of the Army’s most famous suicide charges. For that, their descendants certainly deserve to be singled out for discriminatory taxation.

Neither Minnesota nor the Wisconsin Territory, of which it once was a part, ever had legal slavery. A handful of slaves passed through the territory during the 19th century. In fact, Dred Scott and his wife resided in what is now Minnesota for a time, and that was the basis for his famous case: he claimed that by virtue of living in the free Wisconsin Territory, his bondage came to an end. The Democrat-dominated Supreme Court unfortunately did not agree.

The Democrats’ bill alleges that Minnesota’s wealth, more than 150 years later, is somehow based on slavery. But we never had slave labor here, and it is way too cold to grow cotton. The industries on which Minnesota’s economy has historically been based include agriculture, mining, milling and paper production. How any of these depended on slavery is anyone’s guess.

The bill’s recitations include the usual outraged denunciation of restrictive covenants on the sale of real estate. But by the time blacks arrived in Minnesota in perceptible numbers, restrictive covenants had already been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

If the descendants of those who were slaves, somewhere else, sued to recover reparations from the descendants of Minnesotans who gave their lives to abolish slavery, I would love to take that case for the defense. And I can think of some powerful counterclaims.

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