Why Was Slavery Abolished in 1807/1833?

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The Trans-Atlantic slave trade which began in the early 16th century, gained ground in the following three centuries and was eventually abolished in the 1800s. By the late 18th century, the British population began to find the slave trade both morally and financially disagreeable. The four main factors which contributed to the abolition of the slave trade were the campaigns of the white middle class, the mass support from the white working class, the protestations by the black slaves and the economic impracticality of the trade. The abolition was successful mainly due to the effort of the middle class, which surged ahead in its demands for the freedom of the African slaves and was amply backed by the other three factors. _____________

One could argue that the white middle class campaigners were the prime influence in the abolition of the slave trade, as they initiated and persisted with the anti-slavery movement. The campaigners ranged from uneducated yet enlightened people like Granville Sharp, through Methodist clerics like George Fox, to established politicians like William Wilberforce. They were appalled at the inhuman treatment meted out to the African slaves and took it upon themselves to fight for their freedom. This contributed greatly to the final abolition of the trade. George Fox, the pioneer of the movement, founded a group called the ‘Quakers’, which comprised of evangelical white campaigners who believed in the Christian values of equality in the eyes of God. In 1783, they sent their first petition to the Parliament in which they wrote ‘that a nation professing the Christian Faith, should so far counteract the principles of humanity and justice as by a cruel treatment of this oppressed race, to fill their minds with prejudices against the mild and beneficent doctrines of the Gospel’; aiming this argument towards the religious members of Parliament. A similar petition was sent to Parliament two years later. Their speeches, essays and letters conveyed that their ‘fellow-creatures’ who were held in ‘cruel bondage’ were ‘entitled to the natural rights of mankind’, thereby appealing to the moral passions of both the Parliament and the public. While the written word was used to persuade the Parliament to pass the bill, the spoken word was used to raise awareness and convince the masses to join the cause. Granville Sharp, a prominent abolitionist, was an apprentice to a Quaker linen draper until he quit after learning about the treatment of black slaves. He took up the case of a slave, Jonathan Strong, in 1765. Strong ran away after being brutally beaten by his owner. Sharp was moved by Strong’s condition and took the case to court where justice was served to Strong after three years. After the case gained publicity, Sharp became more involved in the abolition of the slave trade. William Wilberforce, a member of the House of Commons and a famous abolitionist also played an important role in the campaign as he gave the blacks and the public a voice in the Parliament. He personally knew William Pitt, the prime minister, and therefore had a lot of influence in the Parliament, which helped him gain support for the campaign. In addition to the abolitionists, white working and middle class women involved themselves in the movement. Names of Mary Birkett, Hannah More, the writer of the ‘Sorrows of Yamba’ and Mary Wollstonecraft are worthy of mention. The cause of the slaves gave women the opportunity to stand up for something they believed strongly in. They, along with the men, boycotted slave-grown products like sugar, rum and cotton. That they contributed considerably to this movement is borne out by the fact that 10% of the subscriptions to the Abolition Society were women. Art and literature also played an important part in the success of the white middle class campaigns. The middle class’ targeted the educated and the Parliament through art and literature. They argued that poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge also...
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