Christian Abolitionist Movement

American slavery
Figure 1.--The two major abolitionist movements that led to ending the slave trade and slavery itself developed in Britain and the United States. Churches played a najor role in the movement in both countries. One of the major tactics was moral suasion and this was pursued through the publication of books and pamflets on slavery. This early American anti-slavery ilustration was dated 1830. Source: Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-89701). At the time abolition was still a very controversial movement and the technology of printing ilustrations still fairly primitive. The engraving was captioned "United States Slave Trade. 1830". Note the chains and whips. Chains were commonly used on slaves, but use on children as shown here was not common. The children commonly clung to their parents. By tis time in the United States, the importation od slaves had been banned, but both slavery and the internsl slsave trade still common in the southern states.

A key role in ending the African slave trade was the development of an abolition movement in Britain. Here Christians played a cerntral role. The movement might be dated from the publication of John Wesley's Thought upon Slavery (1774). Wilberforce and Clarkson were two other key figures. The movement founded the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1787). Debates in Parliament commenced shortly afterwards (1789). The abolitionists managed to get a bill committing Britain to ending the slave trade (1792). The insertion of the world "gradual" and the lack of a time table meant that little was done. Opponents claimed thst it would put Britain at a disadvantage to other countries. Another bill failed narowly (1796) and Britain's attention turned increasingly to Revolutionary France. Several parlimentarians played an important role. The Whig Party played an important role. Several parlimentarians played important roles. One was Henry Peter Brougham. The abolitionists after several years of work suceeding in passing a bill in ablolishing the slave trade in conquered territories (1805). This was finally followed with the passage of the bill outlawing the slave trade in the British Empire (1807). [Pollock] This was a major step because Britain with its powerful Royal Navy after Trafalgur (1805) dominated the world's oceans. Britain was the only country with the capability of ending the slave trade. The abolitionist movement in America was much weaker than in Britain. And as it developed it was highly sectional. The Abolitionist movement in America was built around Protestant churches in the northern states. At first Quakers were the most prominent voice, but other religious groups in the North also began to question slavery. Southern churches, however, saw no religious problem with slavery. Southern slaves, however, saw considerable paralells with the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt and their plight. Some authors insist that political and ecomomic factors are nore important than moral issues. Thesecare factors which should not be ignored, but it is interesting to note that many countries did not have abolitionist movements of importance and there was not abolitionist move at all in the Muslim world.

Britain

A key role in ending the African slave trade was the development of an abolition movement in Britain. Here Christians played a cerntral role. The movement might be dated from the publication of John Wesley's Thought upon Slavery (1774). Wilberforce and Clarkson were two other key figures. The movement founded the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1787). Debates in Parliament commenced shortly afterwards (1789). The abolitionists managed to get a bill committing Britain to ending the slave trade (1792). The insertion of the world "gradual" and the lack of a time table meant that little was done. Opponents claimed thst it would put Britain at a disadvantage to other countries. Another bill failed narowly (1796) and Britain's attention turned increasingly to Revolutionary France. Several parlimentarians played an important role. The Whig Party played an important role. Several parlimentarians played important roles. One was Henry Peter Brougham. The abolitionists after several years of work suceeding in passing a bill in ablolishing the slave trade in conquered territories (1805). This was finally followed with the passage of the bill outlawing the slave trade in the British Empire (1807). [Pollock] This was a major step because Britain with its powerful Royal Navy after Trafalgur (1805) dominated the world's oceans. Britain was the only country with the capability of ending the slave trade. The abolitionist movement in America was much weaker than in Britain. And as it developed it was highly sectional.

America

The Constitutional Convention largely side stepped the issue of slavery in the new Federal Constitution. As powers vested in the Federal Government has to be specifically enumerated, the question of slavery became a state matter. The Constitution did contain two provisions on slavery. First slaves were to partially counted in determining the apportionment of Congressmen and thus presidential electors. This in effect gave extra voting power to slave states. Second, the Federal Goverment was authorized to end the African slave trade in 1807. The abolitionist movement in the north had already begun to grow at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified. And it gradually grew in importance leading to abolition in the original northern colonies and the new states formed in the Northwest Territory. Slavery did not, however, emerge as a major national issue until after the War Of 1812 when the number of free states began to outmumber the number od slave states making the slaves states a minority in the Senate. The debate in the Congress over Missouri statehood brought out some empassioned speeches for and against slavery. Movements were a foot to abolish slavery in the northern states and more criticim was being directed at the South's "peculiar institution". Representative Livermore (New Hampshire) asked "How long will the desire for wealth render us blind to the sin of holding both the bodies and souls of our fellow men in chains?" The Abolitionist movement in America was built around Protestant churches in the northern states. At first Quakers were the most prominent voice, but other religious groups in the North also began to question slavery. Southern churches, however, saw no religious problem with slavery. Southern slaves, however, saw considerable paralells with the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt and their plight. American abolitionism soon found it faced a major problem that the British abolitioinist movement never had to confront. Slasvery so divided Americam on a sectional basis that it threatened the very existence of the nation--breaking apart the national union. The abolitionist movement was a northern moverment. There was no southern aboliionist movement. TYhe movement as it developed was led by a number of agitators. William Lloyd Garrison founded the American Anti-Slavery Society. Noted authors John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe became influential. Former slaves also had some influence, especially Frederick Douglass. Abolitionists could not become major nationmal political figures because of the need to apease southern voters. Only when the natiobal political parties broke apart on a sectional basis was it possible for an anti-slavery party and presidential candidate to win election. Abrahan Lincoln was not an abolitionist, jhe was, however, a clear anti-slavery candidate who opposed the spread of slavery. This was a turning point in the abolitionisdt movement. Abolitionists could not end slavery even after the Peoublican victory (1860). Ir was the secession of the Southern states and Civil War that made this possible. Lincoln Issuyed the Emancipastion Proclamation (1863). With out southern Congressmen, the Republicans were able to pass Constitutiona;l Amendments enshrining the Emancimation Proclamation in the Constitution with the 13th Amendment.

France

Britain after the Jamaican slave revolt (1831) finally aboloished slavery (1833). They also launched a diplomatic campaign to convince other countries to do the same. France set up the Societe francaise pour l'abolition de l'esclavage (1834). The French abolitionist movement never was as strong as the movement in Britain. I am not entirely sure why this was. The idels of the Revilution were supressed after Napoleon's defeat nd even Napoleon had reinstitted slavery. And the Catholic Church did not make slavery a major issue as the Methodists and other Protestant churches did in England. Some liberal politicans took cautious steps, articles in minor pulivations, parliamentary manoevres, and poorly publicized commissions. Tere were some politicans and officials who advocated more aggressive steps. Hippolyte Passy was a notable voice, but he failed to convince many colleagues. Alexis de Tocqueville advocated moderate measures short of general emancipation. One officer of the Society, Victor de Broglie, failed to act when in power. The movement was impaired by the Government's laws on association designed to limit liberal criticism of the mnrchy. This meant that the Society could not even organize public rallies. And the police prohibited a meeting with British anti-slavery colleagues (1842). There was no agreement wthin the Society on how to proceed so they usually compromised on a "gradual" approach emphasizing education and "moralization" of the slaves. A limited petition campaign was organized (1847). One strident, but largely marginalized, voice was Cyrille Bissette, a mixed-race former sugar planter from Martinique. It was Bissette who played a major role in the 1847 petition campaign. The Society was also hampered by the well-financed planter lobby. The planyer lobby was able to buy journalists to put the planters in a positive light and to obstruct any real action. The principal problem was King Louis-Philippe. The King did not oppose the idea of abolition. He saw, however, the principle of private property even more important. Thus the Government throught tht the panters would have to be reimbursed, but as funds were not available, no effectve action was taken. [Jennings]

Spain

A Puerto Rican planter, Julio Vizcarrando, became the main figure in the Spanish abolitionist movement. The organized the first meeting of the Sociedad Abolicionista Española in Madrid (1864). Two other Puertoricans were involved (JosñAcosta and Joaquín Sanromá). Spanish liberals (Emilio Castelar, Juan Valera, Segimundo Moret, Nanuel Vecerra, and Nicolás Salmerón). Vizcarrando proved particularly important because he was so knowledgeable, both about slavery and the United States. He was married to Harriet Brewster of Philadelphia, an accomplished agitator for abolition. Vizcarrando has already freed his slaves, spoke publically against slavery, and set up a house of charity in San Juan. He adopted the same emblem for the Spanish abolition movement that had been used in Britain--a chained slave praying for deliverance. He helpestablish branches in Barcelona, León, Saragossa, and Seville. He helped found a socially oriented journal--the Revista Hispano-Americano. The first issue carried an impasioned plea for ending the Cuban slave trade as the first step in colonial reforms. Committees organinized in Spanish began asking basic questions about slavery. [Thomas, p. 781.] This showed how the American abd British abolitionist campaigns had made little impact in the Iberian Peninsula, in part because the very traditional Spanish Catholic Church, unlike Protestant churches had played such a limited role in the abolitionist movement.

Portugal


(The) Netherlands


(The) Vatican

There were no international organizations in the 19th century giving international backing to the effort that Britain had launched upon with only limited assistance from other countries. Pope Gregory XVI issued a Bull condemning the slave trade (1839). This was an important step in securing more support from Catholic countries.

Sources

Jennings.

Thomas, Hugh. The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870.







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Created: 4:43 AM 12/30/2009
Last updated: 11:13 PM 4/29/2010