The Rustat hearing at Cambridge should be a turning point in the war against woke - by Charles Moore
We return to the vexed question of statues and slavery with mixed news, some good, some bad. Writing in this week’s Telegraph Charles Moore issues a cautious welcome on the recent court judgement forbidding the removal of the Rustat memorial plaque from the chapel of Jesus College Cambridge.
The recent controversy however, cannot be allowed to obscure the College’s fawning admiration for its other major current benefactor, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP):
“Two years ago, as the world became infected by a plague which the Chinese regime had tried to hide, I came across the website of the China Centre at Jesus College. Its wording struck me. It made no pretence to academic detachment. Using Xi Jinping’s pet phrase “national rejuvenation”, it praised the “extraordinary transformation” wrought by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership.
Further inquiry showed a pervasive yet opaque college engagement with CCP-backed bodies. Professor Peter Nolan, who runs the centre, would not speak publicly about it. The college’s wider China engagement included a UK/China Global Issues Dialogue Centre, conferences (some not ostensibly China-related), receptions, prize-givings, oily speeches in Beijing etc, backed enthusiastically by Cambridge’s vice-chancellor.”
And there are serious sums of money involved:
No forum criticised the Chinese regime – holding events, for example, about the suppression of Hong Kong or the enslavement of the Uyghurs. Only this month did Jesus finally print figures showing that the college has taken nearly £1.5 million from regime-controlled Chinese sources in the past five years. I think that will prove a conservative estimate.
The hypocrisy in the College’s treatment of its two principal benefactors could not be more stark:
“So reticent about China, [the College] turned on another source of its money. Tobias Rustat, a 17th-century supporter of King Charles II, rewarded for his loyalty in the long years of exile, could not hit back, being dead. Rustat’s donations still pay for college benefactions today.”
In making the case for the removal of Rustat’s memorial, the College’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP) alleged that Rustat gave slave money to Jesus College. This turned out to be factually wrong.
“As is required, numerous learned bodies were consulted. Most came down, on conservation and heritage grounds, against moving the Rustat memorial. The alumni did proper historical research. Their suspicions were confirmed: although Rustat had indeed invested in a company which traded in slaves, he had lost money by doing so (serves him right, perhaps). His wealth had other sources. Contrary to the LSWP, he gave no slavery money to Jesus.
In essence, the judge was saying to Jesus College: “You are wrong in law. You did not do your homework properly. You have not dealt fairly with critics.”
How could this ancient, learned charitable institution have got itself into such expensive litigation and reputational damage? How could it not see the hypocrisy of aerating (on factually inadequate grounds) about someone who died more than three centuries ago, while failing to confront the evil done to human dignity by the CCP regime whose money it was trousering?”
As Charles Moore says, the issues and principles extend far wider than just one college:
“The Rustat judgment should encourage all lovers of heritage to resist such removals, backed by the law. It should also deter all leaders and institutions tempted to play to the woke gallery.”
The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:
As a brief addendum we enclose a news report from Glasgow on the fate of historic statues in Scotland. Will they be saved?