The abolition of slavery was a slow, gradual and uneven process throughout the
The end of the slave trade
The intense campaigns in the British Parliament in the last quarter of the 18th century, the civil awareness campaigns and the creation of the British Abolitionist Society demonstrated the central role that the Quakers played in the British abolitionist movement. Although the first petitions to abolish the slave trade, presented to the British Parliament in 1783 and 1787, were not successful, the abolitionists were undaunted and redoubled their efforts through the influential figure of William Wilberforce. Finally, in 1791, the House of Commons voted in favor of the gradual abolition of slavery. Despite these laudable efforts, the eruption of the Haitian Revolution and
Although the Haitian Revolution interrupted the process of abolishing the slave trade, it did not break the determination of the British abolitionists. It did, however, influence new arguments in their campaigns in the early 19th century. The abolitionists argued that if the importation of slaves into the new territories was allowed, those territories would compete with the old sugar colonies. In 1806, Parliament reacted to these arguments and decided to abolish the slave trade in its colonies beginning January 1, 1807. The Parliament acted on economic reasons. However,
The abolition of slavery
The prohibition of the slave trade was just the beginning of a turbulent struggle for the absolute freedom for slaves. The stagnation in sugar production that the British, French, Danish and Dutch colonies were experiencing added to the economic weakness and the justifications for the slave system. The high costs of production, along with the technological backwardness of the plantations made the once profitable business ineffective in the context of imperial and international trade. In
The decline in sugar production and the stagnation of trade between the colonizing country and its possessions forced the representatives of the planters in the colonies to align themselves with the abolitionist proposals of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery, just created in 1832. First, the organization lobbied to improve the living and working conditions of the slaves through creation of laws and reforms. Some of the measures included the following:
· It was demanded that slave owners maintain a registry of those punished.
· Mechanisms were established to allow the slaves to buy their freedom through a system similar to the one that was established in the Spanish colonies.
· Slaves were allowed to present testimony in local courts.
· Whipping field slaves was prohibited.
· Slaves were allowed to own property.
· Breakup of families was to be avoided.
· Slaves were given one day a week to rest.
While these measures were passed with the goal of easing the hardship and cruelty of the slaves’ lives, and were a response to both a humanitarian ideology and the economic backdrop, they were not welcome in the colonies. The colonial legislatures strongly blocked implementation of the measures and the slaves continued to survive in the same impoverished conditions.
Version: 12050607 Rev. 1