Assess the Strategies Used

1 January 2017

The sugar industry and slavery went hand in hand. This is a statement that can be validated and justified by any historian. The institution of slavery was established to provide a cheap, sure, steady and reliable source of labour. It was consequently established to enable the planters to gain maximum profit. Near the ending of the eighteenth century Britain had undergone a period of industrialization and it became more evident that slave labour posed to be more of a burden than beneficial.

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The era of inventions and machines allowed for greater allocation of investments in Europe resulting in the lack of interest for sugar and slavery in the Caribbean. This brought about the rise of abolitionists who led a gradual process that began in 1772 and ended with their success in 1838. One such strategy used by abolitionists was the formation of societies. One such Society was The Committee for the abolition of the Slave Trade, created in 1787.

This society involved active members such as William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp among others. Another society that was developed was The Quakers, otherwise known as The Society of Friends. This society involved the first and most outspoken critics of slavery. Further societies included, the Clapham Sect and The New Tories, which were industrialists who believed that slavery was a wasteful crude, inefficient system of labour which did not fit with the modernization of cheap mechanical production such as steam engines.

The effectiveness of these societies become evident as it can be argued that they represented a unified and collected means of advocating for the abolition of slavery rather than a solitary and possibly, not so effective method of resistance to the system of slavery. To further comprehend the effectiveness of these societies, one may strike a comparison between the British employments of large, organized societies as opposed to the individual French advocates for the abolition of slavery.

Though it can be argued that the famous French humanitarian, Victor Schoelcher, contributed immensely to the abolition of slavery in the French colonies, it is argued by most, that his actions becomes less effective than the unified means of campaign employed by British societies. Another strategy came in the form of media. Abolitionists created a newspaper, ‘The Anti-Slavery Reporter’ in 1825. The newspaper was used to campaign vigorously for the abolition of slavery.

Information in the form of articles was circulated to portray the inhumane treatment of the slaves on the sugar plantation and middle passage, placing pressure on the government. Additionally they made use of leaflets, pamphlets, poetry and illustrations to further depict the condition of slaves. This allowed for abolitionists to achieve both an awareness, and sympathy from the public on the matter of Slavery. After gaining public sympathy they were able to persuade the masses not to purchase sugar coming from the islands. This was seen as a way to sabotage the sugar industry.

In addition the effectiveness of such technique is seen in the fact that campaigning for the abolition of slavery through newspapers, pamphlets, etc. , succeeded in the public putting pressure on the government by overtly ‘shouting’ their complaints and desire for the end of slavery. They lobbied together their voices demanding a change for ‘new circumstances’: the end the slavery. Tomas C. Holt, in The Problem of Freedom, elaborates: “In 1788, about a hundred petition bearing over sixty thousand names demanded abolition of the slave trade; by 1833 the abolitionists had flooded parliament with five thousand petitions endorsed by almost 1. million people demanding the abolition of slavery. ” (pg. 27)

Members of the abolitionist societies were noted for engaging in official protests, debates and campaigns in the parliaments, the House of Commons and public meetings. One notable debate advocating the end of the system of slavery was an economic one which argued that with the introduction and expansion of beet sugar in Europe sugar and slavery was no longer a necessity. Beet sugar proved to be more profitable. In addition there was a lower cost of transportation.

They, in addition, lobbied that paid labour proved to be more efficient than slave labour, as it involved a high mortality rate and thus proved to be unprofitable. Abolitionists participated in petitions collecting and spreading information of the planter’s cruel treatment of the slaves both on the plantations and the middle passage. They received their information by obtaining firsthand accounts from sailors and former slaves at British ports through interviews. One such abolitionist who did this was the researcher Thomas Clarkson.

Thomas Clarkson devoted his entire life to the abolition of slavery. He was instrumental in evoking public sympathy, travelling around, promoting the cause and gathering evidences of the horrors of slavery. He was able to obtain equipments used on slave ships, such as iron handcuffs, leg-shackles, thumbscrews, branding irons and instruments used to force open the jaws of the slave. These equipments were displayed at public meetings and engraved in pamphlets. Prime Minister William Pitt ‘the Younger’, and as previously stated, William Wilberforce, were also two abolitionists of importance.

Wilberforce had done his share of duties in advocating for the abolition of slavery but when he grew ill suddenly, Pitt was responsible for proposing the resolution to the end of slavery on his behalf. Therefore although some critics, for example, Biographer William Hague, considers Pitt to not have been that effective in contributing to the abolition process, others see his importance in the fact that he was a large supporter to William Wilberforce’s advocating for the abolition slavery.

Pitt had suggested that Wilberforce become the parliamentary leader of the abolition movement and both men worked in collaboration on campaigning for the abolition of slavery. As previously stated, the process was a gradual one. As such there was seen to be a series of different laws passed which eventually led to the end of slavery. The first step was seen in the abolition of the slave trade, in 1807. Following this was, Registry Bill, which was passed in 1816 dictating that colonial legislatures register all slaves, as it was suspected that some colonies were importing slaves illegally.

The next step was seen with the implementation of the Amelioration Proposal, 1823. An assessment of this Proposal could be seen as a positive indicator of the progress that abolition was near so that even West India interest became involved in the gradual process. The latter hoped to delay the process while the Abolitionists hoped that it would lead to an improvement in the inhumane, impoverished and ultimately difficult lives of the enslaved. In 1834, the apprenticeship system was employed to provide a smooth transition into emancipation for the slaves, which finally took place in the year 1838.

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