Sample History Paper on Abolition of Slave Trade

Abolition of Slave Trade

Prior to the decision to abolish slave trade, there were different activities and phenomena that took place forcing the government to rethink its motives and the need to carry on with shipping slaves from Africa and other parts of the world. The abolition of slave trade in Great Britain was facilitated by the economic, political cultural and religious activities that lobbied and pressured the government.

This paper presents the political, economic, cultural, and religious conditions that led to the abolition of slave trade. Specifically, it explores the parliamentary processes that took place before and during the abolition. It also highlights the economic principles as well as the religious motivations that contributed to the abolition. From the political perspective, there were series of legal petitions and pressure that compelled the parliamentarians to pass a law that made the slave trade illegal. Economists argued that the economic advantages of slave trade were limited. They mentioned that pectizing slavery would not add value to the economic performance of Great Britain and its colonies. From the cultural and religious perspective, the slave trade was considered inhuman and thus hinders slaves from enjoying their right to happiness and benevolence.

The negative effects of slavery were felt across Britain and The Society for the Abolition of Slave Trade advocated for slave trade abolition campaigned for its abolition. From the arguments of this society, many people in Britain suffered from slavery, which resulted from the slave trade. As such, they desired to reduce slavery by advocating for a halt of slave trade as the abolition of the trade would make slavery to wither.[1] In their campaign, the society gathered support from the public by educating them about the challenges that result from slave trade. They raised awareness, which they eventually used as evidence. The society also petitioned the parliament and through the use of various tactics, such as the distribution of pamphlets, they pressurized the parliament to reconsider the government’s activity of shipping slaves into the country.

The evils of slave trade were recognized by the legislators towards the end of the 18th century. [2]In 1806, James Stephen wrote a bill called foreign slave trade act concerning banning of slave trade relations with France and it was passed. The success in passing the bill is attributed to the enmity between the two countries following the Anglo-French war in 1793. The passing of the bill is considered a major activity towards the abolition of slave trade in Great Britain. The bill formed a strong foundation for other societies that came later on fighting the slave trade such as the Anti-slavery trade society

The law that was enacted in 1806, James Stephen’s Act reduced slave trade by a significant fraction. The law also paved way for the Abolition of Slave Trade Act that was passed in 1807. The slave trade abolition bill was introduced by Lord Grenville on January 2, 1807where its initial reading was made. On February 5, 1807, voting was done in the House of Lords and the bill was passed by 100 members while 34 rejected it. The debate on this bill was intense as it received substantive objection from some lobby groups. A royal assent was made to the Act on March 25, 1807 and this assent confirmed British decision to abolish slave trade in its colonies. The assent also clarified that carrying slaves and enslaved subjects in British ships is illegal. The parliamentary activities played significant roles in the abolition of the trade in Britain and it colonies.

Alongside the activities that took place in the British parliament, there were legal battles that helped in getting rid of the trade. The Somerset Case that was settled in 1772 confirmed that slave trade was illegal. Following the confirmation of the case, the rights of slaves and their owners was investigated. [3]The Zong Case also contributed in the stoppage of the trade. In this case, slave ship owners wanted to be compensated for losing cargo when enslaved subjects were set free or thrown into the sea. The Zong case (1781) and the Somerset case (1772) were backed by Granville Sharp who was a significant abolition member.[4]

Towards the end of 1700s, civil society groups such as the Quakers (Society of Friends) intensified their campaigns for the abolition of the salve trade. The society based their arguments on their religious beliefs. They played significant roles in enlightening the society about the ideals and rights to freedom, happiness and social reforms. Anthony Benezet and John Woolman were the two influential Quakers who waged war against the slave trade by using different techniques. They petitioned the parliament for the abolition in 1783 and also created local networks with other activists who were also fighting for the abolition of the activity. The activities of the Quakers were significant because they created awareness among the members of the society on the disadvantages of slave trade and pressured it to demand the abolition of the trade.

The Abolition committee was formed in 1787 by the Quakers. This committee was constituted by Quakers and evangelists such as Thomas Clarkson. William Wilberforce, who was a sitting member of parliament, also joined the group and announced that he was working on a bill that would help in the abolition of the trade. The contributions made by William Wilberforce gave the Quakers a political influence. The committee set up local committees that spread its message throughout Britain.

[5]Leaders such as Thomas Clarkson made trips to different parts of the country to gather information, documents and witnesses who would help in the case. They helped in the distribution of pamphlets about the negative effects and atrocities of the trade. Specifically, Clarkson would give narrations and stories about the conditions of the slaves in the ships. His education and used of imagery such as drawings encouraged former slaves such as Ottobah Cugoano to write about the evils of slave trade, which emphasize the message that the Quakers, Methodists and the Clapham sect was passed across.

The Clapham sect, which was mainly a group of evangelists dedicated towards the abolition of slave trade, made significant contributions in the abolition of the trade. This sect had its main location at the church of John Venn, in South London and used the media to rally support from the public. The sect published stories of run-away slaves and in addition, they gave them support in form of defense. The motive behind the activities of the Clapham sect was to encourage rebellion among the slaves, which makes them to take bold steps such as escape because they were sure to receive assistance from the sect.

Another group that contributed significantly was the Methodists. The Methodists worked with the lower middle class and they created networks that helped in discussing slavery in the public domain. [6]In the late 1780s, the activities of the Quakers, the Clapham sect and the Methodists were intense and were sufficient to cause a revolution that would bring slave trade to its end.

The abolition committee initiated petition movements in order to mobilize the members of parliament. The abolition committee members held several public meetings where they collected signatures. The plea from the committee centered on social and religious factors such humanity and justice.[7] They had little emphasis on the economic shortfalls that were associated with slave trade. Petitions were always sent to the parliament and the collections of signatures attained the 100000 mark.[8] The activities of the committee also attracted participation from diverse groups. Elite merchants, women and farmers subscribed to the abolition list.[9] In 1788, the first abolition meeting was held by women in London. Following the intense activities of the Quakers and other groups, the citizens began to oppose the slavery activities. The anti-saccharite action (refusal to exchange sugar with the slaves) led to boycott of sugar from West Indies. The sugar plantations in West Indies were manned by Slaves.

During the era of slave trade, many economists gave their insights about the economic worth of the trade. A successfully assault on the trade commenced in the 1780s when neoliberal economists such as John Williamson argued that the economic prosperity of Britain and its colonies was not contributed by the slaves and in fact the adoption of slave trade was a costly.[10]In support of this argument, many authors cited Adam Smith’s arguments that slavery is economically inefficient as it consumes more than it delivers.

Studies on the economic significance of the Atlantic trade and the contributions of salves had been carried out by different scholars such as Herbert Klein and Kenneth Morgan. However, few economists were proactive in the fight for freedom of slaves and end of slave trade. Studies on the economic rewards of slave trade intensified during the rise of capitalism where scholars became more concerned about the returns from investments that they make.

The abolition of slave trade in Great Britain was a movement that attracted religious leaders, humanitarian groups and legal practitioners. From the arguments presented in the paper, the legal battles that were fought by some parliamentarians from the beginning of the 18th century were a major step in the progress of abolition. It appears that the activity of slave trade was not only opposed by Africans but it was also objected by the many British citizens and leaders.

 

Bibliography

Abraham Lincoln, (1809-1865), and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “Presidential message transmitting copy of treaty with Britannic Majesty for suppression of African slave trade.” (1862): 15p. LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

Bethell, Leslie. The Abolition of the Brazilian Slave Trade: Britain, Brazil and the Slave Trade Question. Vol. 6. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Donington, Katie. 2015. “A society built on SLAVERY.” History Today 65, no. 9: 10-17. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

Frank, Alison. “The Children of the Desert and the Laws of the Sea: Austria, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and the Mediterranean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century.” American Historical Review 117, no. 2 (April 2012): 410-444.Professional Development Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

Hempton, David. Methodism and Politics in British Society 1750-1850 (Routledge Library Editions: Political Science Volume 31). Routledge, 2013.

John Pendleton Kennedy, (1795-1870), and House Committee on Commerce. 1843. “Colonization of free Negroes in Africa, diplomatic correspondence with Great Britain on slave trade and commerce.” 1108p. LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

John Quincy Adams, (1767-1848). 1825. “Presidential message communicating correspondence with Great Britain, on convention for suppression of slave trade.” 11p. LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

Kowaleski-Wallace, Elizabeth. 2006. The British Slave Trade and Public Memory. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.Discovery eBooks, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

Wahab, Amar, and Cecily Jones. 2011. Free at Last? Reflections on Freedom and the Abolition of the British Transatlantic Slave Trade: Reflections on Freedom and the Abolition of the British Transatlantic Slave Trade. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. Discovery eBooks, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

Williams, Eric Eustace, and Dale W. Tomich. The Economic Aspect of the Abolition of the West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014. Discovery eBooks, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

 

[1] Frank, Alison. “The Children of the Desert and the Laws of the Sea: Austria, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and the Mediterranean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century.” American Historical Review 117, no. 2 (April 2012): 410-444.Professional Development Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

[2][2] Williams, Eric Eustace, and Dale W. Tomich. The Economic Aspect of the Abolition of the West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014. Discovery eBooks, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

[3] John Quincy Adams, (1767-1848). 1825. “Presidential message communicating correspondence with Great Britain, on convention for suppression of slave trade.” 11p. LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

[4] Kowaleski-Wallace, Elizabeth. 2006. The British Slave Trade and Public Memory. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.Discovery eBooks, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

[5] Donington, Katie. 2015. “A society built on SLAVERY.” History Today 65, no. 9: 10-17. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

[6] David, Hempton. Methodism and Politics in British Society 1750-1850 (Routledge Library Editions: Political Science Volume 31). Routledge, 2013.

[7] ibid

[8] Wahab, Amar, and Cecily Jones. 2011. Free at Last? Reflections on Freedom and the Abolition of the British Transatlantic Slave Trade: Reflections on Freedom and the Abolition of the British Transatlantic Slave Trade. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. Discovery eBooks, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).

[9] Bethell, Leslie. The Abolition of the Brazilian Slave Trade: Britain, Brazil and the Slave Trade Question. Vol. 6. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

[10] Abraham Lincoln, (1809-1865), and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “Presidential message transmitting copy of treaty with Britannic Majesty for suppression of African slave trade.” (1862): 15p. LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2015).