Slavery and Abolition 1600 - 1900
In terms of evil profit, slavery has been a successful business throughout history.
Slavery they can
have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil.
Edmund Burke, British statesman,
in his speech On Conciliation with America,
March 22, 1775
How to load cargo on a slave
One slave ship could have held
approx. 300 people.
From The Slave Trade,
Slavery, and Remembrance
Service / Shackles of Memory Association, Nantes
Which in turn drew from
Esclaves: Regards de Blancs 1672-1913, p.48
Musée de la Marine
And the slave trade is still
alive and well as we speak.
The estimated minimum number of persons in
forced labor at a given time as a result of
trafficking is 2.45 million.
International Labour Organization
A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour -
Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO
Declaration on Fundamental Principles and
rights at Work 2005. Page 14.
Although there is no longer any legal
slavery in the world, the Global Slavery
Index report released in October 2013
estimates that 29.8 million people remain
Using a broader definition of slavery, this
includes those living in bondage as forced
laborers, those in marriages against their
will, and prostitutes engaged involuntarily
in the sexual trade.
During our recent Human Rights Defenders
Forum at The Carter Center, it was reported
that between two hundred and three hundred
children are sold in Atlanta alone each
Jimmy Carter -
A Call to Action, 2014
Modern slavery is called human trafficking. If you live in the US and wish
to report human trafficking, go to
the FBI website.
Back to slavery in history.
When Did the
Transatlantic Slave Trade Begin?
Slave Trade, also called African
Slave Trade, Colonial Slave
Trade, or Transatlantic Slave
Trade, prospered over a period of roughly 400 years, from the 16th to the 19th century.
It definitely gained momentum in the 1660s.
(See timeline below for more details.)
When Exactly Did the Transatlantic Slave Trade End?
Britain declared the slave trade
illegal from May 1, 1807.
The U.S. declared the slave trade
illegal from January 1, 1808.
Britain abolished slavery from August
The U.S. abolished slavery from
December 6, 1865.
In the Southern states of the U.S.,
abolition was followed by legal segregation, which, in turn, was
followed by the civil rights movement.
How Many People
Were Forced to Migrate?
Over 350 years, 43,600 voyages
transported 12.5 million Africans aboard slave ships.
Only 10.7 million Africans survived
the journey and were able to disembark.
Source: National Endowment for the
Brief Slavery Timeline
The King of Spain, Charles I, who will become Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V in 1519, issues exclusive licenses to trade slaves to
Laurent de Gouvenot and to Jorge de Portugal.
According to David Eltis at Emory University,
"the first slave
voyage direct from Africa to the Americas probably sailed in
1526.[...] the 1526 voyage set out from the other major Portuguese
factory in West Africa - Sao Tome in the Bight of Biafra - though
the slaves almost certainly originated in the Congo."
Still quoting Mr. Eltis,
"The slave traffic to Brazil, eventually
accounting for about forty percent of the trade, got underway around
1560. Sugar drove this traffic, as Africans gradually replaced the
Amerindian labor force on which the early sugar mills (called engenhos) had drawn over the period 1560 to 1620."
permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown,
Around 20 Africans arrive at Jamestown. They are labeled servants,
not slaves. However, they were sold to the colony by a Dutch
ship in exchange for supplies. Thus, formally slaves or not, they
are considered personal property.
Still with Mr. Eltis:
"By the time the Dutch invaded Brazil in 1630, Pernambuco, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro were supplying almost all of
the sugar consumed in Europe, and almost all the slaves producing it
Other than that, by now interracial sex is considered a crime.
Hugh Davis to be soundly whipt . . . for abusing
himself to the dishonor of God and shame of Christianity by defiling
his body in lying with a Negro, which fault he is to actk. next
Update to the Virginia Slave Law: It is now illegal to provide
blacks with arms and ammunition.
Mr. Eltis continues:
"Consistent with the earlier discussion of
Atlantic wind and ocean currents, there were by 1640 two major
branches of the trans-Atlantic slave trade operating, one to Brazil,
and the other to the mainland Spanish Americas, but together they
accounted for less 7,500 departures a year from the whole of
sub-Saharan Africa, almost all of them by 1600 from west-central
Africa. The sugar complex spread to the eastern Caribbean from the
beginning of the 1640s."
John Punch, a black runaway
servant, is captured. He is punished to serve for the
remainder of his life, officially a slave. Punch ran away with two
whites, James Gregory and Victor. Interestingly, James and Victor
got off with thirty stripes and an additional four years of
servitude. John Punch, a Negro, got life.
The English, led by William Penn
and Robert Venables, capture
Jamaica. By the 1680s, the island's population will grow to about
18,000, with slaves accounting for more than half of the total.
Virginia law makers ponder the status of children whose father is an
"Englishman" and whose mother is a "Negro woman" and decide,
that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only
according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian
shall committ ffornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee
soe offending shall pay double the ffines imposed by the former act.
1662-ACT XII, 2:170
This is a deviation from the English
law under which a child inherits either freedom or dependence
according to the status of their father.
Eager to close (or create, depending on how you look at it) loopholes, a new law in Virginia decides that it is
now legal for a Christian to keep a fellow Christian as a slave.
According to new Virginian law, killing your slave is no longer a
Blacks or Indians can no longer own white servants, but are,
yet not debarred from buying any of their
1670-ACT V, 2:280
There are around 2,000 Blacks in
Virginia at the moment.
The Royal African Company is formed "for the development of new
trade", i.e. to extract gold and slaves from Africa.
Bacon's Rebellion. In Virginia,
Nathaniel Bacon, joined by blacks and whites alike, fights Virginia
Governor William Berkeley and his men.
Hostility broke out between the two
men, who were cousins by marriage, over disagreement on how to treat
the Indians. Berkeley wanted to trade with them, Bacon wanted them
gone. When Bacon assembled his posse to go after the Indians, Bacon
called him a traitor.
In Virginia, an act is passed with the objective to prevent insurrections among slaves
by outlawing large funerals or parties among Blacks.
Interracial marriage in Virginia now gets you deported. The law
calls it an "abominable mixture."
Negroes are not allowed to own horses and cattle any longer.
By means of the
Treaty of Rijswijk, Spain cedes
the western third of Hispaniola
(today's Haiti) to France. It is now
called Saint Domingue and will play a major role in the history of
abolition. (See the Haitian Revolution in 1791)
Virginia law makers
issue their 1705 Slave Code, declaring slaves to be real estate:
An act declaring the Negro, Mulatto, and
Indian slaves within this dominion, to be
For the better settling and preservation of
estates within this dominion, . . . .
II. Be it enacted, by the governor, council
and burgesses of this present general
assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the
authority of the same, That from and after
the passing of this act, all negro, mulatto,
and Indian slaves, in all courts of
judicature, and other places, within this
dominion, shall be held, taken, and
adjudged, to be real estate (and not
chattels;) and shall descend unto the heirs
and widows of persons departing this life,
according to the manner and custom of land
of inheritance, held in [illegible] simple.
General Assembly, Virginia Slavery Act (19
New Maryland law decrees that neither Blacks nor Indians are permitted to testify
in court against a white Christian.
The First Maroon
War begins in Jamaica. It will end in 1739. The
Maroons were fugitive slaves and their descendants.
May 16, 1749
The Georgia Colonial Assembly asks to permit slavery in the Colony
of Georgia by demanding the repeal of its slavery prohibition law from 1735.
American Revolution begins. It will end in 1783.
If you are in Charleston, South Carolina, and have nothing planned
on May 6, why not pop down Austin, Laurens & Appleby's
who have a choice cargo of
250 fine healthy Negroes on sale.
U.S. National Archives and
The Quakers in England set up an organization "for the relief and
liberation of negro slaves in the West Indies, and for the
discouragement of the slave trade on the coast of Africa".
In order to improve, but not to end, the slave trade, the
Dolben Act of
1788 is passed by the British Parliament. This Slave
Trade Act, introduced by the abolitionist
William Dolben, restricts the number of slaves that are
allowed to be carried on a ship according to its weight in tons.
Slave Ship Brookes - Stowage
However, while this act regulates
the problem of overcrowded "cargo" and eliminates numerous deaths as one of its consequences,
it would backfire with regards to the protection of children:
While [the Dolben's Act of 1788] was meant
to restrict the slave trade, it actually had
an adverse effect on children. The act
mandated that no more than two fifths of a
ship's cargo be children, and it also
limited the number of African men to 1 male
per ship ton.
With such restrictions threatening slave
supply, planter demand began to change in
response. Since this act did not define a
'child,' more children between the ages of
12 and 18 entered the trade. Furthermore,
this act sparked an important debate on the
benefits of breeding slaves rather than
Consequently, this act was somewhat
responsible for an increased number of girls
and children in the trade.
Elizabeth. Documents Illustrative of the
Slave Trade to America. Volume 2. New York:
Octagon Books, 1965, 583-87. Annotated by
Colleen A. Vasconcellos.
Abolition delivered by
William Wilberforce on
May 12, 1789. Helping Wilberforce draft the speech was his
William Pitt, the
a slave revolution, begins. It will end in 1804 and it will have a
global impact on slavery.
Denmark decides that after ten
years, from 1803, the slave trade will be abolished in the Danish
West Indies. Up until then, however, the slave population of the
islands will be increased.
February 4, 1794
The French National Convention decrees the
abolition of slavery in all French colonies,
except Bourbon Island (Reunion) and the
Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean.
This is the first abolition. It will be
revoked in 1802. The second, and final,
abolition will be passed in 1848.
Second Maroon War begins.
It will end in 1797.
The French revoke their first
abolition decree from 1794. The second abolition will pass in 1848.
ends. It had begun in 1791.
March 25, 1807
By means of the
Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade,
the British abolish the slave trade with their colonies. This act
will take effect on May 1, 1807. However, owning slaves is still
January 1, 1808
Starting today, the importation of slaves into
the United States is outlawed,
thanks to the
Slave Trade Act (Act to
Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the
Jurisdiction of the United States) which had been approved on March
The slave trade is declared
illegal in Venezuela and in Mexico.
The slave trade is declared
illegal in Chile as well as in Spain and its colonies, which
normally would include Cuba, but there the new law is ignored.
The slave trade is declared
illegal in Argentina.
The slave trade is declared
illegal by Sweden.
The Netherlands (Holland) ban
the slave trade.
December 24, 1814
Treaty of Ghent, both Britain
and the U.S. promise to work toward abolition of slavery.
Britain and Portugal sign an
agreement. Portugal agrees to discontinue its slave trade north of
Act XV, the
Final Act of the Congress of Vienna
to induce all the Powers of Christendom to
proclaim the universal and definitive
Abolition of the Slave Trade
that this general Declaration cannot
prejudge the period that each particular
Power may consider as most advisable for the
definitive Abolition of the Slave Trade.
The slave trade is abolished in
The slave trade is abolished in
August 28, 1833
British Parliament passes
legislation to end slavery, the
Abolition of Slavery Act,
which will, from August 1, 1834, apply throughout the British
Colonies, especially in the British West Indies, Canada, and the
Cape of Good Hope. It is now illegal to own slaves.
December 10, 1836
Portugal bans the slave trade.
April 27, 1848
The French pass a
Décret relatif à l'abolition de
l'esclavage dans les colonies et les possessions françaises,
or in other words, a
Decree on the abolition of slavery in French colonies and
This law directs that "Le sol de
France affranchit l'esclave qui le touche." In other words, "The
soil of France frees the slave who touches it."
Whereas slavery is an attack on human
destroying the free agency of man,
removing the principle natural right and
being a flagrant violation of the Republican
dogma: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,
it is declared that slavery
is completely abolished in all French
colonies and possessions.
The French have come a long way since 1794,
the year when they decreed the first abolition. This time, however,
By the way,
Victor Schoelcher was the man who prepared this law.
Victor Schoelcher, who
One of the strongest and clearest
French voices against slavery.
Abolition of Slavery
in the French Colonies in 1848
Oil on canvas by Francois Auguste
In this allegorical representation, the central figure could be that
Versailles Castle National
Museum, Photo RMN / © Gérard Blot
September 18, 1850
The opponents of abolition are
not quite done yet. The
Fugitive Slave Act
of 1850 requires citizens to assist in the return of
escaped slaves to their owners.
On July 5, 1852,
delivers his speech
The Hypocrisy of American Slavery.
On August 26,
Charles Sumner delivers
Freedom National; Slavery Sectional.
25, 1852, at Ryan's Mart, Charleston, you
can choose from A prime gang of 25
Negroes. Check out the ad, which
describes age, ability, and condition of
each slave for sale.
Gang of 25 Sea Island Cotton And Rice
Negroes, By Louis De Saussure, 1852
Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections
Library, Duke University
slave trade is abolished in Peru.
19, 1856, Charles Sumner delivers his speech
The Crime Against
October 16, 1859
launches his raid on the United States Armory
and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (today's West Virginia). His objective
liberate the slaves.
Lincoln issues the
Emancipation Proclamation, which
frees the slaves of the Confederate states
in rebellion against the Union.
April 8, 1864
Thirteenth Amendment is passed by the
January 31, 1865
Thirteenth Amendment is passed by the House.
February 1, 1865
signs the Thirteenth Amendment.
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
is ratified. This amendment ends slavery and involuntary servitude
in the country as follows:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime whereof the
party shall have been duly convicted, shall
exist within the United States, or any place
subject to their jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this
article by appropriate legislation.
November 1, 1868
on anti-slave-trade-patrol off the
African coast, the
British vessel HMS Daphne frees 156 East African
enslaved people from a dhow
( What in the
world is a dhow?) — 48 men, 53
women, and 55 children. Captain G.L.
The deplorable condition of some of these
poor wretches, crammed into a small dhow,
surpasses all description; on the bottom of
the dhow was a pile of stones as ballast,
and on these stones, without even a mat,
were twenty-three women huddled together -
one or two with infants in their arms -
these women were literally doubled up, there
being no room to sit erect; on a bamboo
deck, about three feet above the keel, were
forty-eight men, crowded together in the
same way, and on another deck above this
were fifty-three children. Some of the
slaves were in the last stages of starvation
G.L. Sullivan, Dhow Chasing in
Waters and on the Eastern Coast of Africa,
p. 168 —
Found via Edward A. Alpers The
Dhow Slave Trade, p. 16
Here is the
photograph taken onboard the HMS Daphne:
Rescued East African slaves taken aboard HMS
Daphne from a dhow,
National Archives of the UK
Emperor Pedro II, Brazil passes the
Law of the Free
Lei do Ventre
Livre. This new law gives freedom
to all children that are born to slaves.
Thus, slavery will die out soon.
In Britain, the
Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was repealed in its
entirety on November 19, 1998, by the
Statute Law (Repeals) Act of 1998, in order to modernize
and simplify the law.
Rights Act 1998, Article 4, reads:
No one shall be held
in slavery or servitude.
Go here for more about
Human Rights in History.
Let's wrap it up with a quote from
Abraham Lincoln's speech to the
14th Indiana Regiment, delivered on March 17, 1865:
Whenever I hear
anyone arguing over slavery,
I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.