The Slave Commerce Act: British Parliament Lastly Abolishes Slavery In 1807

1800s | April 16, 2021

Sugar plantation within the British colony of Antigua, 1823. (British Library/Wikimedia Commons)

The lengthy battle to cease the transatlantic slave commerce got here to a head on March 25, 1807 with an act of parliament to abolish British slave commerce. The journey to the Slave Commerce Act of 1807 was fraught with tensions on each aspect of the argument, however when it lastly grew to become coverage, it modified the face of England perpetually.

Bitter Sugar

Sugar was the single largest driving force behind the British slave commerce. As part of the Commerce Triangle, slavers transported their victims to New World plantations the place they cultivated and grew sugar cane, a crop that comprised one-third of the nation’s economic system. That meant plenty of British companies, such because the Financial institution of London and Lloyd’s Insurance coverage, lobbied adamantly to maintain the Triangle up and working though arguments in opposition to the slave commerce had been brought to the House of Lords as early because the 1600s. When Britain went to battle with the North American colonies, who held their valuable sugar cane plantations and the place a rising motion to finish the slave commerce was percolating, it began to look as if the choice is perhaps out of their arms.

Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society (1795). (British Abolition Motion/Wikimedia Commons)

The Somerset Ruling

It wasn’t till 1772, nonetheless, that any actual motion was taken. That yr, Lord Mansfield dominated in favor of James Somerset, a person bought into slavery and bought by Charles Stewart in America. Somerset had escaped from Stewart solely to be incarcerated for his days on the run, and after a trial that ignited one of many earliest fights between abolitionists and ardent supporters of slavery, Mansfield dominated that slavery wasn’t supported by English regulation.

Though he meant his choice to use solely to Somerset’s case, Mansfield’s ruling was the start of the tip of the slave commerce on each side of the Atlantic. It threw the humanitarian disaster of slavery under a spotlight, and just over a decade later, Parliament member and philanthropist William Wilberforce joined forces with Hannah Extra and Granville Sharp to create the Anti-Slavery Society. Impressed by his colleagues, Wilberforce spoke at size within the Home of Commons concerning the horrors of the slave commerce, the grim conditions on the ships, and Biblical renunciations of slavery.

William Wilberforce, the chief of the British marketing campaign to abolish the slave commerce. (Wilberforce Home/Wikimedia Commons)

The Slave Commerce Act

As assist for abolishing the slave commerce continued to construct into the nineteenth century, Legal professional-Normal Sir Arthur Leary Piggott backed the International Slave Commerce Abolition Invoice of 1806. The invoice handed on Could 23, 1806, prohibiting the import of slaves from from international territories, together with Americas and the Netherlands.

Less than a yr later, Lord Grenville introduced the Slave Commerce Act to the Home of Lords, the place it obtained significant pushback from the Duke of Clarence and people with financial pursuits within the West Indies. They argued that it was one factor to cease shopping for slaves from international powers, however they feared the complete British economic system would go beneath with out slave labor. However, following a 10-hour debate in February 1807, the Slave Commerce Act was handed by a margin of 283 votes to 16.

Even with this monumental success, nonetheless, the struggle for abolition wasn’t over. Slavery was nonetheless working rampant within the British Caribbean, resulting in the Slavery Abolition Regulation of 1833, which freed almost 800,000 enslaved folks all through the Caribbean, South Africa, and Canada. There have been nonetheless these American colonies, however nicely, you already know how that worked out.

Tags: 1800s | british history | slavery

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based mostly author. For some motive this was probably the most troublesome factor he’s written all day, and right here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the humorous a part of that final sentence. As for the remainder of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, child. He’s obsessive about the methods through which singular, transgressive acts have formed the broader strokes of historical past, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which signifies that he’s nice at a cocktail party. When he’s not writing about tradition, pop or in any other case, he’s including to his discovered {photograph} assortment and eavesdropping on strangers in public.

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