The abolitionist movement

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  • The abolitionist movement
    • Key Groups involved
      • The Quakers –  formed in the seventeenth century. Central to their faith was a belief in peaceful action. In 1783 a committee of Quakers was set up The role of the committee was to uncover and publicise the horrors of the slave trade.
        • including the Thomas Clarkson, who became a leading abolitionist
          •  William Wilberforce, who had experienced a religious conversion. In 1787 Wilberforce helped set up (with Clarkson) the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (later the Anti-Slavery Society).    
            • Wilberforce was a close friend of the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, who was also opposed to the slave trade.  
      • The Evangelicals – Members of the Church of England and other Protestant Churches, the Evangelicals believed that it was the responsibility of the individual to live a Christian life. 
        • 1780s, a group of highly influential Evangelicals met at the house of MP and banker, Henry Thornton. Known as the Clapham Sect, they campaigned (amongst other things) for the abolition of the slave trade. 
        •  William Wilberforce, who had experienced a religious conversion. In 1787 Wilberforce helped set up (with Clarkson) the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (later the Anti-Slavery Society).    
          • Wilberforce was a close friend of the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, who was also opposed to the slave trade.  
    • Olaudah Equiano
      • Olaudah Equiano was just 10 years of age when he was taken from Africa to Barbados as a slave.
      • He worked as a servant to a ship’s captain and travelled widely, staying in London for some time, where he learnt to read and write and became a Christian.
      • He was then taken to America, where his master sold him. However, Equiano eventually bought his freedom and returned to England, where he married Susan Cullun from Ely.
      • In 1789 he wrote his autobiography. This was widely read and was vital in the early stages of the abolitionist campaign. 
      • Equiano travelled extensively and worked closely with other abolitionists such as Granville Sharp, bringing incidents such as what happened to the slave ship Zong to the public’s attention    
    • Campaign in Parliament    
      • Wilberforce became the leading spokesman in Parliament for the Anti-Slavery Society. In 1791 he introduced his first parliamentary bill proposing the abolition of the slave trade. 
      • The abolitionists quickly gained the support from a wide cross-section of the country, including a number of influential MPs such as Charles James Fox.
      • Yet there was also considerable opposition and resistance to the abolitionists. Many MPs had business interests which were bound up with the slave trade and argued that abolition would greatly harm Britain’s interests. The 1791 bill was defeated.
      • In 1793 the Napoleonic Wars against France began. Supporters of the slave trade argued that the ships carrying slaves could be used as training vessels for British seamen.
      • But Wilberforce continued to campaign and would eventually be successful. In 1807 Parliament passed The Slave Trade Act, which agreed to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire, but not slavery itself. 
    • The Campaign Outside of Parliament    
  • He was then taken to America, where his master sold him. However, Equiano eventually bought his freedom and returned to England, where he married Susan Cullun from Ely.

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