With respect to a name change for Keene (see July 1 Sentinel letter from Emma Macon-Hay), I say, “Not so fast!”
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protest, now can be a time to examine what needs to be changed, but it is not a time for revolution or an occasion to tear down a statue of Lincoln accompanied by a figure of a newly released slave.
In 1753, when Gov. Benning Wentworth renamed the young community of Upper Ashuelot in honor of Sir Benjamin Keene, he certainly was not seeking to praise Keene for his very limited role as a representative of the British Government in the re-formation of the Indies trading company, The South Sea Co. (It had suffered a scandalous financial collapse in 1720.). If one inspects history, it is clear that Keene had nothing to do with the formation of this trading company or its initial “vile contract” of 1713 to engage in the slave trade.
All thinking people should regret that slavery existed as a commercial venture throughout the world from Biblical times on; indeed, slavery was still considered a legal enterprise in England in 1713. Certainly, it is a disgrace that slavery persisted during the lifetime of Benjamin Keene, and also that it was not abolished in the U.S. until the far later date of 1865. But this is not sufficient reason to change the name of either Keene, N.H., or the United States of America.
More appropriately, Benjamin Keene deserves recognition for his career as a diplomat for the British government. After completing legal studies at the University of Leiden in 1718, Keene distinguished himself as a negotiator for Britain in the 1729 Treaty that ended the Anglo-Spanish War. According to Wikipedia, he also negotiated the earlier Treaty of El Pardo and worked to prevent war in the Convention of El Pardo in 1739. He was appointed as British embassador to Portugal in 1745 and to Madrid in 1749. He served also as a member of Parliament from 1740 to 1749.
It should be obvious that it was Keene’s diplomatic career that qualified him for recognition by Gov. Wentworth, and this service can rightfully be remembered by the citizens of our community in our time.
Reason and perspective do not support a name change for our fair city of Keene.
ALLEN T. ANSEVIN
25 Mayflower Drive