Long and Brutal – The Fight for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Before it was a vital aspect in upholding the entire western economy, the slave tradewas already heavily established within Africa itself. Even Though Britain and theAmericans were the most prominent supporters of slavery, it was however thePortuguese who first took advantage of the African Slave Trade; by the end of the 15
century they had exported more than 10,000 slaves to sugar plantations.In 1562 Sir John Hawkins set sail for Africa; carrying valuables and riches that hehoped to trade for slaves. He is believed to be responsible for England’s involvementin the slave trade. Soon the entire British economy would revolve around theexploitation of slaves, making the abolition of slavery out of the question if theywanted to remain wealthy and prosperous. Nevertheless as the slave market continued to increase, people began to question theethics of the trade itself. In 1689 John Locke, a well practiced British philosopher preached these memorable words
“Slavery is so vile and miserable an estate of man, and so directly opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation…”
By examining this statement andmatching it with the date, Historians are able to assume that over 200 years beforeslavery was officially abolished people were opposed to it. As long as slavery hadexisted their were always outspoken individuals who objected to the practice.As slavery continued to thrive, more and more individuals began to oppose the wholeconcept of trading in human life. The abolition resistance grew and many court casesregarding the law of ownership were held, this put the High Court into a tricky position. The Current Lord Chief Justice; Lord Mansfield did not want to beresponsible for depriving England of more than £700,000 worth of slave property, yethe knew that slavery could not continue as to much abolition support had beenuncovered.On June 22, 1772, Mansfield announced to the high court
“The power claimed [of a master over a slave] never was in use here nor acknowledged by the law…I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England, and therefore the blacks must be discharged”
He made it clear that the British law did not accept slavery in the creed; thereforewithout mention slavery was deemed unlawful and banned. We can gather from thisfragment of the speech that slavery has been so accepted into everyday life that no
U.S. Slave Trade
The forced migration of Africans to the 13 original British colonies and the United States during the time of slavery involved mostly people from the Congo, Angola, Senegambia, and Nigeria.
Africans started to fight the transatlantic slave trade as soon as it began. Using violent as well as nonviolent means, Africans in Africa, the Americas, and Europe were relentlessly involved in the fight against the slave trade and slavery.
Between 1807 and 1808 Britain and the United States moved to abandon their legal involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Abolitionists had been denouncing and campaigning against it for almost half a century.
U.S. Constitution and Acts
Due to pressure from the Deep South, the 1787 U.S. Constitution prevented Congress from ending the slave trade before 1808. Between 1807 and 1820, several acts were passed to regulate and suppress it.
For several years, starting in 1808, free African Americans solemnly commemorated January 1st, the day that was supposed to see the end of the Africans' deportation to the United States.
Illegal Slave Trade
From the 1780s until the last slave ship arrived in Cuba in 1867, the illegal portion of the traffic grew steadily until it encompassed the whole of the slave trade. About 1.5 million Africans arrived illegally in the Americas during this period.
Revival of Slave Trade
After its demise was announced in the Constitution; after its official prohibition in1807; after decades of illicit trafficking; the international slave trade still had support among Southerners and they agitated for its official revival throughout the 1850s.
The ending of the slave trade came about in two stages in most countries. The first was a struggle to pass formal laws against human trafficking, and the second was the fight to make those laws effective in the face of the illegal traffic.