March 25th

On this day in 1807 the Slave Trade Act came into force, abolishing the Slave Trade in the British Empire. Official_medallion_of_the_British_Anti-Slavery_Society_(1795).jpg

The bill was introduced by Charles James Fox who had led the government as part of the Fox-North coalition of the late 18th century and died before it was granted Royal Assent from King George III. It also had the backing of prominent abolitionists like William Wilberforce.

However, it was a long fought battle with the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade being formed in 1787 (the same year as the US Constitution was drafted and ratified) a group which was associated with the Quakers – considering the matter a crusade.

The backing of Lord Greenville – the Prime Minister – ensured its passage through the Lords (as Prime Ministers were taken from their ranks at this time in history) and the Act of Union from 1800 brought in 100 Irish MPs – most of whom supported abolition.

The language of the Act was, however, designed such that it did not end slavery but rather the slave trade. It would not be until the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, passed 10 years after the Anti-Slavery Society – which featured Wilberforce as a member – was founded. Wilberforce – like Fox – died just before the Act received Royal Assent from the new Monarch; King William IV.

In the aftermath of the Acts, the British Navy – the World’s foremost at this time – patrolled the seas preventing the continuation of the trade by other nations.

If you’d like to learn more about the abolition of slavery, visit this website: http://abolition.e2bn.org/slavery_113.html

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