Why slavery was abolished
There are many things that have created slavery but also many things to abolish it.Historians have identified a number of factors that contributed to the abolition of slavery, but here are the most important ones that I will talk about in this essay; middle class whites, black slaves, working class whites and economics.
The white middle class people played a huge part in the abolition of slavery.William Wilberforce was a highly respected MP; he played a huge part in the abolition by forming a group opposing slavery.
He campaigned by making lots of speeches and studied the terrible conditions on board the slave ships.
Granville Sharp was a surgeon in east London, when he met a slave named Jonathan Strong. Strong had been whipped and badly beaten by his master David Lisle. Sharp took him to hospital where he recovered. Strong was working as a healthy messenger boy when Lisle had him recaptured. When Sharp heard of this, he took Lisle to court to regain Strong his freedom. Sharp won the case and it got him a lot of good publicity, which Sharp later used, for his further campaigns.
William Pitt was a prime minister at the time and he also heavily opposed slavery, he got parliament to make the law that to improve conditions on the plantations in the West Indies but unfortunately this had very little effect.
Josiah Wedgwood was the younger son of Thomas Wedgwood. Josiah created a plaque to try and change people’s minds about slavery, the plaque was of a black slave in chains and around the sides read:
‘Am I not a man or a brother?’
This saying helped abolish slavery because it made people realise that slaves are human beings and are men or brothers not cargo. He also joined with Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp to form the society for the abolition of the slave trade.
It was not just the middle class whites but also the working class whites too, they signed thousands of petitions to abolish slavery and in 1814 1.5 million people signed a petition. Lots of speeches were made after work outside on the streets. Usually there would be huge groups of workers all gathered round to hear debates. After the law in 1807 abolished the slave trade, middle class whites still kept on protesting until slavery was abolished altogether.
Slavery was also abolished because the money that was being made from it was decreasing rapidly. Adam Smith who was an economist said that slaves who are forced to work for free would put very little effort into there work but if they had something to be motivated by like a pay check they would want to work harder for more money, this results in better business because more work is being done.
As time went by places apart from the West Indies, started producing sugar. Places like Cuba and Jamaica made their sugar very cheap and did not have slaves to do the work. This forced a lot of the British sugar plantations in the West Indies to close down, which brought a reduction in the demand for slaves.
The black slaves themselves also took upon there human rights and helped to abolish slavery. Lots of black slaves who worked in Britain started to demand wages from their owners and to be treated like normal servants. Some slave owners would have taken this badly and the slave would have been beaten. This would have only caused the slave owner more trouble by being taken to court by his slave so the slave could fight for his/her freedom. The slave would do this by getting help from someone like Granville Sharp. In every case the judges made a different decision each time because the judges did not want to seem biased.
The black slaves who worked in the sugar plantations in the West Indies, did not have the chance to go to court so they rebelled! One of the biggest rebellions was at the British plantation of St Domingue; the slaves killed their owners and set fire to all the sugar canes. British troops were sent out to stop them but the slaves defeated them. This made the British see how badly the slaves wanted freedom.
Olaudah Equiano probably had the biggest impact on the abolition of slavery. He was a slave who brought his own freedom and wrote his autobiography on his past experiences as a slave. This turned many people against slavery and Olaudah soon found he working with the likes of Wilberforce. He also helped slaves gain their freedom and brought cases like the zong to the public’s attention.
Some people like Elizabeth Heyrick only played a small part in the abolition but they still got something done. In 1824 Elizabeth Heyrick published her pamphlet immediate not gradual abolition. In her pamphlet Heyrick argued in favour of the immediate freedom of the slaves in the British colonies. This was different from the official policy of the anti slavery society that believed in gradual abolition. The leadership of the organisation attempted to stop information about the existence of this pamphlet and William Wilberforce gave out instructions for leaders of the movement not to speak at women’s anti-slavery societies. At the conference in May 1830, the anti slavery society agreed to drop the words “gradual abolition” from its title. It also agreed to support Elizabeth heyrick’s plan for a new campaign to bring about immediate abolition. The following year the anti slavery society presented a petition to the House of Commons calling for the “immediate freeing of newborn children of slaves”.
As you can see slavery was abolished for so many reasons but what I think the most significant are a combination of the middle class whites and Olaudah Equiano.
These were what I think the most important factors where because firstly the middle class whites like Wilberforce where very highly respected people and were the sort not to be ignored at parliament. I think especially Wilberforce because him being an MP meant that parliament would listen to what he had to say which they would not do with a working class white for example.
Olaudah Equiano played a big part because he spoke about slavery from a personal experience and when something as bad as the horrific tales of slavery has come straight from a person who has experienced it has a greater effect rather then if it came from a MP who had not experienced it.