2A movement to abolish slavery While many people in Britain opposed slavery, it was not until May 1787 that a small society was started in London by Thomas Clarkson to push Parliament to dismantle this evil institution.This new society very cleverly declared that their aim was only to end the transatlantic slave trade to the British colonies. They hoped that, with the supply of slaves cut off, plantation owners would turn to free paid labour. So they called themselves the 'Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade'. They changed their name to the 'Anti-Slavery Society' after the slave trade was banned.
3The AbolitionistsThe first group to oppose the slave trade was a religious group called the Society of Friends. They were known asQuakers. Quakers believe that all people should be treated with respect and are against violence.In 1761 the Quakers decided that no one involved in the slave trade could be one of their members. No good person could take part in such a cruel trade.In 1787 the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed to end the slave trade. The society was run by a committee of 12 people, nine of whom were Quakers.
4Between 1787 and 1807 a number of people set about ending the slave trade. In this section, we will look at the work of the following Abolitionists: Granville Sharp – he set about abolishing the slave trade by using the law.Thomas Clarkson – he set about abolishing the slave trade by gathering information about how cruel it was.William Wilberforce – he was a Member of Parliament (MP). He worked hard to pass a law against the slave trade.Olaudah Equiano – he was a slave who had gained his freedom. He wrote a book giving valuable evidence about the cruelty about the slave trade. Many of the sources you have used come from his book.John Newton – he was the captain of a slave ship but wanted to see the trade abolished. He gave much valuable evidence about the cruelty of the slave trade..William Pitt – he was Prime Minister when the slave trade ended in 1807.There were also many others who helped to end the slave trade.
5Granville SharpGranville Sharp was a civil servant and political reformer. He was one of the 12 men who, in 1787, formed the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade and was the first chairman of the Society. His interest in the issue, however, went back much further.Sharp was a very religious man who lived in London. He was visiting his brother who was a doctor. There he saw a badly injured black man called Jonathan Strong waiting for treatment.Granville Sharp listened to Strong’s story. Strong was a slave belonging to David Lyle. Lyle had brought him from Barbados. Lyle had beaten his slave very badly and left him for dead. Jonathan Strong spent four months in hospital. Granville Sharp paid for it. After that Strong worked at a job for the next two years. One day Lyle saw Jonathan Strong in the street. Lyle wanted him back. After all, Strong was his property! Lyle wanted to sell him for £30.
6Lyle hired two slave hunters to kidnap Jonathan Strong Lyle hired two slave hunters to kidnap Jonathan Strong. They kept him in prison. Strong managed to get a note to Sharp. He asked for his help. Sharp took the case to a law court. The judge decided that Strong had committed no crime. He ordered him to be freed from prison. The judge said Strong was a slave in Barbados but not in Britain. This was the first legal victory against the slave trade. Sadly, Strong died from the after-effects of his wounds five years later.Sharp was also involved in other legal cases, such as the slave ship Zong. Cases such as this help to raise public awareness of the horrors of slavery and started to turn public opinion against the slave trade. Sharp continued to work for abolition until the act was passed in However, he was not to see the final abolition of slavery in the British Colonies, as he died on 6th July, 1813.An illustration of a Slave being thrown off the Zong
7James Somersett was a black slave in Virginia, which belonged to Britain. In 1770 his owner brought him to Britain. He escaped but was recaptured after two years. His owner tried to take him back to the West Indies. Granville Sharp wanted to stop this and took the case to court in He hired a team of lawyers, one of whom said: “The moment slaves set foot in this country they become free. They are protected by the laws of this country. There is no law allowing slavery in England. A slave owner has no rights over a slave here”.The judge had to agree. Sharp had won. No one had the right to own a slave in Britain. But it was still legal to own slaves in lands that belonged to Britain, such as the islands of the West Indies.
8Thomas ClarksonClarkson was a student at Cambridge University. As a young man he did not really think about the slave trade. At university he entered an essay competition entitled ‘Is it right to force men to become slaves?’ He won the prize. He decided to work against the slave trade. Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp and 10 others formed the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Clarkson had the special task of collecting evidence about the slave trade. His job was to prove how cruel it was. In London Clarkson saw his first slave ship. He later wrote: ‘For the first time I stood on the deck of a slave vessel. The sight of the rooms below and metal grates above filled me with horror. I soon found a fire of anger burning in me.’ The slave ship was empty! Even just looking at it was enough to prove how cruel the slave trade was.
9Clarkson also visited Bristol and Liverpool and collected evidence Clarkson also visited Bristol and Liverpool and collected evidence. He got items such as iron handcuffs, branding irons and thumbscrews. He also talked to over 20,000 sailors. He found out that they too suffered in the slave trade. No one cared if they lived or died. The slaves were kept alive because they were worth money. Some captains even tried to kill Clarkson by pushing him into the water, but failed.Clarkson also noticed the trade goods brought from Africa. He could see the craftsmanship and skill that would have been required to produce many of the items. The idea that their creators could be enslaved was horrifying. Clarkson bought samples from the ship and started a collection that he added to over the years. This collection was kept in a large box.Noticing how pictures and artifacts were able toinfluence public opinion, more than mere wordsalone, he used the contents of his box todemonstrate the skill of Africans and thepossibilities that existed for an alternativehumane trading system. The 'box' became animportant part his public meetings, providingan early example of a visual aid.
10William WilberforceWilliam Wilberforce ( ) was a deeply religious man whose political views were very conservative, but who devoted most of his parliamentary career to the abolition of the slave trade and slavery. He also campaigned for legislation to prohibit the worst forms of child labor, cruelty to animals and the removal of political disabilities on Roman Catholics.From 1789, Wilberforce regularly introduced bills in Parliament to ban the Slave Trade. He was fiercely opposed by those making fortunes from the trade, who used all kinds of delaying tactics. The first time a bill was introduced, Wilberforce lost the debate by 163 votes to 88 but he never gave up. A bill to cease the trade was passed by the House of Commons in but with the amendment that the ban should be 'gradual', which those with an interest in the trade interpreted as 'never'.
11Finally on 25th March 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished the Slave Trade in the British colonies. It was carried by 267 votes. The house rose to its feet and cheered wildly.However, this was not a vote to abolish slavery as a whole throughout the Empire, just the trade in enslaved people. William Wilberforce continued to work for the abolition of all slavery within the British Colonies.This was finally achieved in 1833
12Olaudah EquianoEquiano was one of the few slaves who had managed to buy his freedom. He knew that one of the most powerful arguments against slavery was his own life story. He published his autobiography in 1789: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. It became a bestseller and was translated into many languages.The book began with a petition addressed to Parliament and ended with his antislavery letter to the Queen. The tens of thousands of people who read Equiano's book, or heard him speak, started to see slavery through the eyes of a former enslaved African. It was a very important book that made a vital contribution to the abolitionists' cause.Equiano worked hard to promote the book. He went on lecture tours around Britain and Ireland and spent much of the 1790s campaigning against slavery. He was helped by abolitionist friends, such as Thomas Clarkson, who recommended his book and wrote letters of introduction. He visited Birmingham in 1789 and Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Cambridge in In 1791, he toured Ireland. Equiano spoke at a large number of public meetings, where he described the cruelty of the Slave Trade.
13John NewtonNewton was an Anglican clergyman and former slave ship master. It took him a long time to speak out against the Slave Trade but he had an influence on many young evangelical Christians, particularly William Wilberforce. In 1787, Newton wrote a tract supporting the campaign, 'Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade', which was very influential. It graphically described the horrors of the Slave Trade and his role in it. He later joined William Wilberforce in the campaign for abolition of the Slave Trade. In February 1807, when the act to abolish the Slave Trade finally became law, John Newton, nearly blind and near death, "rejoiced to hear the wonderful news."
14William PittElected as Prime Minister at the age of 24, William Pitt the Younger ( ) can be credited with encouraging Wilberforce to lead the abolitionist movement through political means. In addition to acting as his political ally, Pitt also maintained a close friendship with Wilberforce throughout most of their careers.In 1778 Prime Minister William Pitt introduced the first bill attempting to regulate the slave trade.In 1792 Wilberforce and Pitt brought a motion before the House of Commons calling for the gradual abolition of the slave trade.In 1799, 1801 and 1802, more attempts led by Pitt, Wilberforce and Clarkson to have the government regulate the slave trade were failures.Pitt and Wilberforce remained friends until Pitt's death in 1806, just one year before the slave trade was abolished.
15Methods used by the Abolitionists Books, newspapers, posters and pamphlets, letters to newspapers to gain public support. Some gave explicit descriptions of the middle passage and its consequences or the treatment of the slaves at the hands of cruel masters – these were designed to shock and disgust their readers. Others, used religious and moral arguments against the slave trade which they hoped would change peoples opinion.Olaudah Equiano, a former slave published his autobiography telling of his experiences as a slave – It was a best seller and became one of the most important abolitionist books. The descriptions of him being ripped from his family, and his subsequent ill treatment helped to gather support for their campaign.John Newton, a former slave ship captain spoke at meetings and published a book about the evils of the slave trade. Given that he was an ex slave ship master and European his testimony helped to convince people of the evils of the trade.
16Abolitionists collected signatures and sent hundreds of petitions to Parliament. Their main aim was to gain the support of MP’s to help them change the law.Josiah Wedgewood produced a cameo of a poor African begging to be free – thousands were sold. This helped raise the funds needed to support the campaign. It also helped to reinforce their message.Large public meetings were held and clergymen used Sunday sermons to condemn the slave trade. Once again this helped the abolitionists reach a wide audience in the hopes of gaining support.
17Abolitionists campaigned to persuade people not to buy sugar produced by slaves. This struck at the heart of the triangular trade that was central to the slave trade.In Parliament, William Wilberforce argued against the trade and introduced Bills to abolish it. He also tried to encourage his fellow MP’s to help and support him as he tried to abolish the slave trade.The Society for Abolition organised witnesses to give evidence to Parliament about the slave trade.
18The Arguments used by Abolitionists It was immoral and against the Bible and God’s will to use other human beings as slaves. Given that most people at this time were church goers it gave the abolitionists a captive and very large audience.The trade caused cruelty, suffering and thousands of deaths. In fact it was not just that the slave trade caused the deaths of the slaves but also of the sailors who took part in the triangular trade.Slaves were treated very badly during the horrific middle passage and many died. This, it was argued was an inhuman way to treat any human being.
19American and French revolutionaries and many writers argued all humans had a right to be free. This was also aimed at the many working class people in European countries who had little or no say in the government of their own country.Some opponents believed that if the slave trade stopped, all slavery would soon end. This included the ill-treatment of workers in Britain.Adam Smith argued that slaves were more expensive than free labour.
20British trade with India and the Far East was increasing where cheaper sugar could be produced. These countries did not use slave labour to produce this sugar.The slave trade prevented the development of British industry and the creation of new jobs in Britain.The slave trade led to wars, death and destruction in Africa. It was also argued that this made trade difficult.
21Despite this some people still campaigned against the abolition of the slave trade. Britain’s position as the world’s greatest naval power depended on the slave trade. The trade helped to hone the skills of the sailors who joined the British Navy.The trade employed thousands of British sailors and if the trade was abolished these sailors would be out of work.The slave trade was very profitable and brought huge wealth to Britain. This was apparent in a number of slaving ports within Britain, namely London, Bristol and Liverpool.The government got most of its money from taxes related to the slave trade.Plantation owners argued that abolition would ruin them and there would be no sugar etc.Africans were happier, civilized and could be converted to Christianity when they were slaves.Slaves were prisoners of war and would be killed if they could not be sold.Some argued that abolitionists were exaggerating and that slaves were well treated on British ships.Some people believed that abolition of the trade would lead to slave revolts in the West Indies. The main reason for this was that the plantations offered slaves work and kept them occupied and less likely to rise up in revolt.Many people had racist views and believed Africans were inferior, not ready for freedom and it was God’s will that they should be slaves. This was not an uncommon wayAfter 1792, Britain was at war with France and people argued that the country needed money from the slave trade.
22This cartoon was produced by William Dent in 1789 This cartoon was produced by William Dent in It opposes the campaign to end the slave trade. At the bottom are two heads named Abolition and Regulation. Abolition wears a dunce’s cap labelled ‘Folly’, while Regulation wears a Roman helmet labelled ‘Wisdom’. The cartoon is arguing that regulation of the trade to remove abuses would be better than abolition.