How would you explain the rather rapid rise of the movement to abolish the slave trade, which led to the act of 1807? How big were factors such as: religion?
In march 1807 slave trade was abolished by the British parliament, however this act did not abolish the act of slavery, the act only abolished slave trade, slave trade began in 1562 and had become one of the economic activity in Britain, slaves worked in plantations and were owned by plantation owners. Slaves were captured in Africa and transported to Europe where they were sold to owners where they worked in plantations.
Slaves were mistreated and harassed by their owners. They were not paid for the hard work they performed in plantation. During the transportation of slaves many would die of disease and only a few would arrive healthy for them to be auctioned.
Problems would arise where the slaves would die from tropical diseases and owners would not provide proper medical care, slaves would be beaten mercilessly by their master and owners and there were no laws governing this immoral behaviour. However a few individuals in the society would consider slavery and slave trade as an immoral behaviour and this led to the formation of anti slavery movements.
The abolishment of slavery was a long struggle dated back in the 1750 where a number of
Quakers started to disapprove slave trade, the Quakers started to disapprove slave trade and encouraged slave owners to educate slaves, introduce them into Christianity and improve their working and living conditions, in 1783 a group of six Quakers pioneered a movement that was to start the struggle to abolish slave trade.
These members included George Harrison, John Lloyd, William Dillwyn, Joseph Hooper, Joseph Woods, and James Phillips. this was a non denominational movement which was aimed at gaining support from parliament and the Anglican church.
This movement gained popularity and an additional of three members from the Anglican Church joined the movement and this really strengthened this group, these Anglican members included William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp.
After the joining of the religious members William Wilberforce was chosen to be the group member due to his connection with the British parliament, the struggle continued but Wilberforce faced strong resistance to the abolishment of slave trade in parliament and this was due to the fact that there was a powerful dependence on slaves and slave trade. The first petition to abolish slave trade was made in 1783 but it failed by the vote where more member opposed the abolishment of slave trade.
In 1787 a committee for abolishment of slave trade was founded, the new mission was to inform the public on the immoral acts of slavery, this movement involved writing books on slavery, posters and printings pamphlets and holding rallies. This brought attention to the entire public to abolish slave trade.
In 1791 Wilberforce presented a bill to abolish slave trade but the bill lost by the vote where 163
votes opposed the bill and only 88 agreed to this proposal, however this did not stop the committee from further publicity through the visit to places to enlighten the public and writing anti slavery work. Clarkson who was a committee member toured all cities and ports of England to inform the public about the ills of slave trade and slavery.
In 1804 there was a successful revolt by slaves in Haiti, this revolt which was known as the Haiti revolt brought about a sense of insecurity among the public members who owned slaves, during this years also there was an increase in the number of slave owners who were slain by their slaves and this sense of insecurity brought about members of the public to support the ant slavery movement even in parliament
Wilberforce who was a member of parliament for this period and continued to introduce the anti terrorist bill each year and it was not until 1807 that the British parliament abolished slave trade through the vote by members of parliament.
From the above discussion it is clear that the abolition of slave trade did not take place in only one, it took the committee more than 20 years to achieve their objectives, and the Anglican Church played a major role in the abolition of slave trade. The first members of the committee would not have achieved their objectives without the inclusion of the three members who were Anglicans and also members of parliament.
The support by the members of public to abolish slave trade was as a result of increased publicity caused by the publications these members of the committee undertook, the increased support increased the number of votes in parliament and gradually the bill was passed when more members voted towards the implementation of the abolition of slave trade. The church also viewed slave trade and slavery as an immoral act which should be abolished and stopped. This led to increased public attention towards abolition of slave trade.
The Haiti revolt in 1804 also brought a security issue when slaves usefully revolted against their owners, increased cases of slave owners by the slave also increased public support to abolish slave trade and this eventually was achieved in the year 1807 when the act was passed. The abolition of trade in Britain influenced other regions such as America to end slave trade and eventually slavery and slave trade was completed abolished in later years after a long struggle to abolish it.
Religion therefore played a major role in the end of slavery and slave trade where they publicised the idea that slavery was immoral and they supported the antislavery movement, the increased support by religious institutions which included the Anglican church which was very influential at the time led to the abolishment of slave trade in 1807 and in later years the end of slavery acts.
Stanley Engerman and Robert Paquette (2001) Slavery, Oxford University Press, Oxford
John Coffey (2000) The Abolition of the Slave Trade: Christian Conscience and Political Action,
Adam Hochschild (2005) The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery, McGraw Hill publishers, New York
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