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Another contributing factor into why it took until 1833 for the British government to illegalise slavery in her empire is because of the effectiveness of the abolitionists. Throughout the slavery period, there had always been voices against the trade, but no one had ever made a significant change to the law until the abolitionist committee was formed, or did the? In 1689 John Locke wrote “Slavery is so vile and miserable an estate of man, and so directly opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation, that ’tis hardly to be conceived that a Englishman much less an gentleman, should plead for it” (12)

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Locke’s writings were in 1689, 144 years before the abolition of the slave trade, but why hadn’t this made any difference to the abolition. When Locke’s writings were published the government were tackling other issues such as The Mutiny Act, which restrained the monarch’s control over military forces in England by restricting the use of martial law. As well as the Toleration Act which granted freedom of worship to Nonconformists (i.e., dissenting Protestants such as Baptists, Congregationalists, and Methodists), which meant that Locke’s writings were never discussed as the government was too busy with other matters.

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The concept of timing of the arguments is also seen in 1792 when the abolition committee were at the closest point o bringing about slavery. The reason being in 1792 the French revolution was at its prime meaning to the English government being heavily involved in what they should do about it, meaning the abolition of the slave trade was set back even further, which is one of the many reasons why the government did not illegalise the slave trade until 1833 because they were preoccupied in other ‘important’ issues.

One of the leading abolitionists against the slave trade was that of the Quakers “…a religious group known for their peacefulness…” (13). In 1688, Quakers raised the issue of the slave trade “Though they are black…we can not conceive there is more liberty to have them as slaves than it is to have other white ones…Those who steal or rob men and those who buy or purchase them, are they not alike?” This argument by the Quakers addresses the immoralities of the trade, but yet failed to change the law in any significant way.

However in 1724 Quakers and Wesleyan Evangelicals whose religion was based up the “direct service of their fellow man” (13) formed the ‘Society of friends’ who claimed in their speech’s declared that they will “fight the evils of the slave trade”. It was the ‘Society of friends’ who began the fight for the abolition of salve trade which evidently encouraged more people such as Wilberforce to think of the slave trade as immoral, therefore creating support for the abolition consequently leading to the abolition of the slave trade in 1833. It is this idea a chain leading to the abolition of the slave trade, which is one, the reasons why; it took until 1833 for the British government to illegalise the transatlantic slave trade. The reason being even thought the ‘Society of Friends’ rose issues regarding the slave trade being immoral their arguments did not create a national opposition to the trade, or a major awareness of it. Further awareness of the immoralities slave trade were brought by Granville Sharp

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Kylie Garcia

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