Britain Abolishes the Slave Trade

'Am I Not a Man and a Brother?' emblem used by some abolitionists determined to end the slave trade in the British Empire
'Am I Not a Man and a Brother?' emblem used by some abolitionists determined to end the slave trade in the British Empire

Historical Context

One of the first groups in Britain to organize an opposition to slavery in the Empire was the "Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade", formed in 1787. Twenty years later they found themselves with a large group in the British parliament that supported their ideals, finding slavery an abhorrent blight upon humanity.

People such as William Wilberforce had been prominent campaigners for abolishing slavery. Their parliamentary majority increased, including by the introduction of 100 Irish MPs into the House of Commons in 1800, most of whom were in favor of getting rid of the trade.

On 23 February 1807 the House passed the bill with an overwhelming vote of 283 votes to 16. Then, on 25 March 1807, the bill became law when King George III signed it.

Though the slave trade was outlawed it continued to some Caribbean countries for a time, and it would not be for another quarter of a century before Britain completely outlawed the practice of slavery in 1833.

Drawing Info


Artist: Josiah Wedgwood
Location drawn: United Kingdom

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1789-05-12 William Wilberforce makes his first major speech on abolition in the UK House of Commons, reasoning the slave trade morally reprehensible and an issue of natural justice
  • 1807-03-25 British Parliament abolishes slave trade throughout the British Empire; penalty of £120 per slave introduced for ship captains
  • 1833-08-28 Britain's Slavery Abolition Act gains royal assent
  • 1834-08-01 Slavery Abolition Act 1833 comes into effect, abolishes slavery throughout the British Empire
  • 1840-08-01 Labourer slaves in most of the British Empire are emancipated

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