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Abolition of the Slave Trade Act Becomes Law in Britain

By March 25, 2014

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In 1807, as a climax of over 20 years of forceful campaigning, the like of which had never been seen before, a bill abolishing the British slave trade passed both houses of parliament - an event which saw much celebration by the leading campaigners, Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce, Olaudau Equiano, etc.

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act became law on 25 March 1807 and took effect on 1 May, at which time no slave ships would be allowed to trade at British ports, and taking part in the slave trade would be considered a felony (it would eventually be classed as an act of piracy).

It was, however, a shallow success, since the banning of the slave trade did nothing for those already in the British Caribbean (an estimated half-million Africans) and elsewhere who were still under the shackle and yoke of British run slavery.

Whilst the US quickly followed suit and also banned the slave trade, they did little to enforce the ban. Britain, on the other hand, ultimately apportioned over one-third of the Royal Navy to enforce the law.

Full emancipation would not be achieved until 1838 - the Emancipation Act was passed by the British parliament on 1 August 1933, with British slaves achieving a limited freedom under a draconian 'apprenticeship' system the following year. A new campaign brought this to an end, and full freedom in 1838.

Comments

April 7, 2009 at 9:56 am
(1) ASUTF says:

When reading this, I do not understand why it took so long for slaves to gain complete freedom when so many slave trade acts were being made at that time. Why did the process take so many years to finally kick in? I don’t get it.

June 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm
(2) S.L JIBRIL says:

The abolition of slave trade actually is not just as a result of british parliamentary act,there are many reason that forced the europeans to abolish trade in slaves such as africans revolt the intellegentsia in particular,industrial revolution, and so many other reasons

December 8, 2013 at 7:22 am
(3) Stephen Morris says:

At the time it was thought that abolishing the Slave Trade would suffice to end slavery. Of course, after it was outlawed it still continued because it was highly profitable for slavers because the penalties for being caught were not very high.

It was not until 1818 when Slaving became a felony crime, that slightly more suitable punishments for slaving were handed out, including transportation and imprisonment.

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