British Abolitionists

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BRITISH ABOLITIONISTS

BY

FREDD JONES

APRIL 6, 2013

BRITISH ABOLITIONISTS

In 1807, the British slave trade was abolished by parliament. Two hundred years later, Hollywood commemorated the event with the movie Amazing Grace. Like many historians, Hollywood told the story as if William Wilberforce was a one-man crew.1 In reality, there were thousands of heroes to this story, on both sides of the Atlantic. Slavery was a necessary evil in the minds of British and American citizens, but slavery was a cancer on society. “American” can be considered here as either an American colonist or a citizen of the United States. The abolitionists went slowly to gradually accomplish their goals. William Wilberforce's efforts were indispensible, but it is simplistic to bestow abolitionist credit on the legacy of just one man. Mercantilism is the belief that there is only so much wealth to divide between the nations. A positive trade balance can then be assumed to be the road to riches. In the seventeenth century, mercantilism led to the evolution of the triangle of trade, the cornerstone of which was the Atlantic slave trade. At the height of this triangular trade, Britain experienced an economic golden age, with a huge percentage of that gold in some way related to the slave trade. The Colonists in North America were also profiting and the triangle of trade continued legally for at least another quarter of a century after the American Revolution. The economies of Britain and her American colonies were booming. But in Africa, families were being torn apart by

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1 Riding, 2007

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kidnappers. Humans were being uprooted from their heritage and losing their freedom to merciless bandits. Frequently, African war lords picked fights on trumped up charges and started wars with rival tribes or simply overpowered their peaceful neighbors, just to capture poor souls as prisoners of pointless wars and to sell the victims to heartless, white, slave traders. Observers on both sides of the Atlantic could see the huge moral issues of slavery, but they were unwilling to give up the lifestyles to which they had become accustomed. Nobody wanted to make a stand for the poor victims. There was too much to be lost by each individual. Or they were simply unconcerned, because the victims were from another culture. Nobody wanted to tell a planter he had just wasted his money due to a change in the law. So the abolitionists tried to stop the slave trade, as opposed to total abolition of slavery. -------------------------------------------------

Slavery is the only issue that has ever caused American states to declare war on other -------------------------------------------------
American states. Slavery issue was also at the heart of the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas- -------------------------------------------------
Nebraska Act, the Compromise of 1850, and the annexation of Texas. But why isn't slavery still -------------------------------------------------
a way of life for African-Americans? The abolition of slavery was a dream that started slowly -------------------------------------------------
and took many years to manifest: long torturous years, during which countless African- -------------------------------------------------
Americans suffered constant pain, exhaustion, and humiliation. History has placed the egg -------------------------------------------------
representing credit for abolition squarely in the basket belonging to one individual. William -------------------------------------------------
Wilberforce was the British Member of Parliament (MP) who first proposed legislation to outlaw -------------------------------------------------
the British slave trade.2 While it is obvious that Wilberforce played an essential role in the -------------------------------------------------
abolition campaign, to give him sole credit is a...
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