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Britain’s Separation From The Slave Trade: An Act Of Morality

1592 words - 7 pages

During the eighteenth-century, at the height of the British involvement in the slave trade, few could have predicted that there would be movements looking to abolish the trafficking of slaves. Though the Transatlantic slave trade proved to be a crucial component to the success of Britain’s imperial dominance, it was ended in 1807. The abolition of the Britain’s involvement in the slave trade was marked by familiarizing the nation’s citizens of the lack of morality and inhumanness experienced by individuals on several occasions involving the slave trade, and the persistence of several key individuals looking to exploit these occasions.
The transatlantic slave trade began around the sixteenth-century, with Africans being imported into the Spanish Americas . The seventeenth-century is where the large scale of African slave labor British Caribbean can be found1. It is also at this time the British began to flourish economically as a result to the slave trade. The slave trade helped Britain establish capitalism within its society, with the development of merchants and planters. With Sugar being the most lucrative import brought into Britain, it created a change in the social lives of the people of Britain . As a result, the demand for sugar escalated and, backed by slave labor, Britain was able to generate substantial returns of capital2. The slave trade made the imperial British Empire a dominant economic powerhouse.
Abolishing the slave trade needed parliamentary approval because of the great deal of success the slave trade had with tacit acceptance since the seventeenth century. This campaign to get rid of the slave trade extended beyond parliament; it became a national debate. The abolition movement and argument about distastefulness of the slave trading business was aided by a legal decision made by Lord Chief Mansfield in 1772. In 1771, and African born slave by the name of James Somerset ran away from his master. He was captured and placed on iron ships and sent to Jamaica . Philanthropist and abolitionist, Granville Sharp, brought the case to Lord Mansfield. After several months of deliberation, Lord Mansfield ruled that: the English law did not support the keeping of a slave on English soil and so Somerset must be set free3. This decision meant that slaves could not be forcibly returned to their masters in England, but this decision did not end slavery. Nor did it end the slave trade; many slaves were sold on British Soil thereafter. Despite all of this, it provided a devastating blow to planters and slave owners, and widely publicized the abolition movement.
Several years later the abolition movement would gain more publicity with a legal case relating to the Zong ship in 1783. The Zong was a Liverpool vessel carrying four-hundred and seventy tightly packed slaves from Africa to Jamaica in 18713. After losing several crew members and slaves to sickness, the ship’s Capitan, Luke Collingwood, ordered his ship crew to throw slaves overboard...

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