Treaty divides the Atlantic world between Portugal (Africa, Asia, Brazil) and Spain (the rest of the New World).
War of the Spanish Succession.
Treaty of Utrecht: Britain gains all of St Kitts and Asiento grant to import slaves into Spanish America.
Seven Years War. Britain gains Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and Tobago.
William Wilberforce, the abolitionist, is born in Hull.
Thomas Clarkson, the abolitionist, is born.
The abolitionist campaigner Granville Sharpe collects evidence showing that slavery is incompatible with English Law.
The Somerset decision is popularly interpreted as outlawing slavery in England.
John Stedman joins a military expedition to suppress a slave rebellion in Surinam, South America and is appalled by the inhumanity shown to Africans. In 1796 he publishes a full account of his experiences that becomes a classic of abolitionist literature.
American War of Independence. France seizes Grenada, Tobago and St Kitts from Britain but retains only Tobago after the Peace of Versailles.
The House of Commons appoints a committee to investigate the state of the slave trade. The Knight vs Wedderburn legal case in Edinburgh rules that enslavement is incompatible with Scots law.
Granville Sharp tries to persuade Anglican bishops to oppose the slave trade.
British Quakers form two committees to work against the slave trade, one an informal publicity group and the other an official committee of London Meeting for Sufferings. An official Quaker petition to end the slave trade is presented to Parliament; the Quakers print over 10,000 copies of The Case of Our Fellow Creatures, The Oppressed Africans, which are personally distributed among men of influence. Granville Sharp helps publicize the facts of the Zong case, in which 133 blacks had been thrown overboard at sea.
James Ramsay publishes his influential Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves; both Ramsay and Sharp cooperate with Quaker abolitionists.
Thomas Clarkson publishes An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, which in 1785 had won a prize at Cambridge University.
The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade is formed; the Society is really an extension of the unofficial Quaker slave-trade committee; Clarkson travels to collect evidence for the Society. Dec.: 11,000 people sign the Manchester petition for the abolition of the slave trade. Sierra Leone established as settlement for freed slaves.
The London Society helps to organize a national petition campaign against the slave trade. Parliament passes a law regulating the conditions of the slave trade. The Privy Council Committee for Trade and Plantations conducts an enquiry into British commercial relations with Africa. Provincial abolition societies organize. May: the issue of abolition is formally imntroduced into the House of Commons. In response to growing concern about conditions in the 'Middle Passage' the Dolben Act limits the number of enslaved people a ship is permitted to carry. Even with these restrictions, conditions remain dreadful.
May 12: Debate on Mr. Wilberforce’s Resolutions respecting the Slave Trade: in Parliament, William Wilberforce introduces twelve resolutions against the slave trade, a subject eloquently debated in the Commons; despite a flood of petitions, the Commons insist on hearing further evidence, after which it turns to other matters. Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African is published. The French Revolution begins in July. Its ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity spark discontent in the slave colonies.
Jan.-April: A Select Committee of the House of Commons examines witnesses on the slave trade.
April 18/19: Debate on Mr. Wilberforce’s Motion for the Abolition of the Slave Trade: the Commons continue to examine witnesses and to debate the slave trade, but rejects a motion by Wilberforce to introduce an abolition bill. [Yeas: 88/Noes: 163, Majority against the abolition, 75] May 3: Parliament grants a charter to the Sierra Leone Company, which for four years has been promoting the colonization of British free Negroes in Africa. The Company commits itself to oppose the slave trade.
April 2: Debate on Mr. Wilberforce’s Motion for the Abolition of the Slave Trade: after much oratory, the Commons votes to terminate the slave trade in 1796, but the bill fails to win assent in the House of Lords, which adopts tactics of delay. “That the abolition of the slave trade ought to be gradually abolished”
April 3: Home Secretary Henry Dundas successfully changes Wilberforce’s motion for the immediate abolition of the slave trade. Commons agree on a resolution for the gradual abolition of the slave trade. [Yeas: 230, Noes: 85. Majority: 145] April 23: Debate on Mr. Dundas’s Resolution for the Gradual Abolition of the Slave Trade: Mr. Dundas’s proposition to end the slave trade in 1800 was rejected by Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox.
April 27: The Committeee divided: For the abolition in 1796, 151/Against it, 132. A popular movement to boycott slave-grown sugar gains momentum, but domestic political conflict and repressive reaction begin to weaken the antislavery movement, especially in towns like Manchester. The Sierra Leone Company sends off a further fleet to Africa, carrying black refugees from the American Revolution, many of whom had first been taken to Nova Scotia.
Upper Canada enacts a gradual emancipation law. In the House of Commons, Wilberforce now loses by eight votes on a motion to introduce a slave-trade abolition bill. The Commons also rejects a bill outlawing the British slave trade to foreign markets. There is a marked decline in popular antislavery zeal and in the Abolition Committee’s funds.
France abolishes slavery and frees all enslaved people in her colonies. Legislation is passed by US Congress to prevent US vessels being used in the slave trade.
Wilberforce’s bill for the abolition of the slave trade is defeated by four votes in the House of Commons which in 1795 had rejected his motion by a wide margin. Napoleon seizes power in France and soon restores slavery in the French colonies.
Parliament accepts proposals from Charles Rose Ellis, representing the planter interest, that the crown recommend to the colonial legislatures measures that would encourage a natural increase in slaves and thus eventually render the slave trade unnecessary.
Napoleon reinstitues colonial slavery.
Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France. Vienna Settlement confirms British control of St. Lucia, Tobago and the Guiana colonies.
A revival of anti-slave-trade agitation occurs. A bill for abolition, proposed by Wilberforce, is passed by the House of Commons, but William Pitt’s cabinet postpones debate in the House of Lords, arguing that there is not sufficient time to hear evidence. Jan. 1: St. Domingue is declared the republic of Haiti, the first independent black state outside Africa.
The House of Commons defeats a bill proposed by Wilberforce for abolishing the slave trade. [70 votes for abolition and 77 against it]
August 15: Pitt issues an Order-in-Council stopping the African slave trade to foreign colonies conquered by Britain, and restricting the annual introduction of any slaves to those colonies to 3 per cent of the existing slave populations.
Jan.: Pitt’s death leads to the Ministry of All the Talents, and to secret government collaboration with the abolitionists. Parliament passes a law ending the British slave trade to foreign countries as well as to captured or ceded colonies. Parliament also overwhelmingly approves a resolution by Charles James Fox that the entire slave trade should be abolished but no immediate action follows. October: Death of Charles James Fox.
January 2: Lord Grenville presents a bill abolishing the slave trade in the House of Lords
January 4: Four counsels are heard against the bill
January 5: the debate commences – in favour of Lord Grenville 100, against it 36, bill passed that the African slave trade should cease
February 10: Bill is carried to the House of Commons
February 20: Counsel is heard against it
February 23: Lord Viscount Howick’s (Earl Gray) eloquent speech in which he highlights how little the slave trade contributed to the wealth of the nation [fifty-fourth part of the export trade]: for the question 283 vs. 16 against it
March 6: Sir C. Pole advocates that the year 1812 be substituted for the year 1807 as the time when the trade should be abolished. On a division, 125 against the amendment, for it 17. The bill enacted, that no vessel should clear out for slaves from any port within the British dominions after May 1st 1807, and that no slave should be landed in the colonies after March 1st 1808
March 16: Bill is read a third time; it is passed without a division
March 18: Bill is carried to the Lords
March 23: House of Lords meet; Lord Grenville brought the bill forward; it is adopted without a division; bill receives last sanction of the Peers; sent back to the Commons
March 24: Taken into consideration and agreed; carried back to the Lords
March 25: 11 am Royal Assent obtained A Proposal by Earl Percy for gradual emancipation in the colonies is defeated and is disavowed by the abolitionists. The African Institution is formed as an organization to seek enforcement of the abolition law as well as to further the civilization of Africa and the development of markets for commodities other than slaves. The government of Sierra Leone is transferred to the crown, after considerable controversy over the private Sierra Leone Company’s management.
Thomas Clarkson publishes his two-volume History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament. The British West Africa Squadron is established at Sierra Leone to suppress any illegal slave trading by British citizens. Between 1810-65, nearly 150,000 people are freed by anti-slavery squadrons.
Britain negotiates with Portugal for the abolition of the South Atlantic slave trade.
A law is passed making participation in the slave trade a felony.
A British Order-in-Council requires that Trinidad, captured from Spain in 1797 and denied a legislature of its own, set up a registry of slaves to help detect illegal importations.
Public pressure mounts in Great Britain to force France to abolish the slave trade, after the first Treaty of Paris sanctions a five-year postponement of French abolition. Abolitionists once again launch a petition campaign. 1,370 petitions were presented to Parliament. 30,000 people sign a petition in Liverpool. Other maritime nations either abolish the slave trade or make commitments to Britain.
At the Congress of Vienna, British statesmen secure an abstract declaration condemning the slave trade. In Parliament, British abolitionists move for a law requiring a centralized registration of all West Indian slaves, a plan that provokes heated controversy.
A treaty is signed with Portugal prohibiting the slave trade north of the equator but sanctioning the Portuguese-Brazilian trade south of the line. A treaty is also signed with Spain prohibiting the trade north of the equator and providing for total abolition in 1820. Britain agrees to pay a fixed sum as compensation for Spain’s expected financial losses. Slave Registration Act forces all slave owners to provide a list of all the enslaved people they own every two years.
Britain fails at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle to secure international agreement on the right of search.
Parliament passes a compromise measure for the registration of colonial slaves, but it falls far short of abolitionist demands. Courts of mixed commission are set up at Sierra Leone to adjudicate cases involving captured slave ships. British establish Royal Navy anti-slave trade squadron off West Africa.
US law makes slave trading a crime equal to piracy, punishable by death. 1822 The Congress of Verona marks the final failure of British attempts to win sanction for an international maritime police to suppress the slave trade. Diplomatic pressure now focuses on Brazil, which declares her independence from Portugal and is thus free from previous treaty obligations. British abolitionists begin to turn their attention to West Indian emancipation, and plan organized action to secure total though gradual abolition of slavery.
The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery is organized. The Commons approves George Canning’s resolutions for the amelioration of colonial slavery, and the government recommends specific reforms to colonial governors.
The Great Reform Act introduces new Members of Parliament from groups who are more likely to oppose slavery.
March 18: Marshall presents a petition from Leeds, signed by 18,800 persons, praying for the Abolition for Slavery.
March 19: Mr Fowell Buxton is convinced by Lord Althorp not to bring forward his Motion for the entire and immediate extinction of slavery on the condition that a date be given on which the matter would be discussed in the House. The date is set for 23 April.
May 14: The House resolves itself on the Motion of Mr Secretary Stanley on the subject of forming a Committee regarding the question of the emancipation of slaves. 30 May is set as a date for considering this resolution. May-June: Petitions are presented to the House of Commons and the “Ministerial Plan for the Emancipation of Slaves” is discussed.
June 11: The Committee is finally divided on the Original Resolution of Compensation not to exceed ₤20,000,000: Ayes 286, Noes: 77 – Majority 209.
July 24: On the 24th Mr Secretary Stanley’s Motion on forming a Committee for the Abolition of Slavery is carried by a majority of 7. 154 ayes and 151 noes.
July 24- Aug. 19: Central to the discussion are the nature and length of apprenticeship of emancipated slaves and the compensation of planters with £20,000,000.
July 26: The Abolition Bill is read for the last time in the Commons. William Wilberforce dies on 29 July, three days after the bill to emancipate enslaved people is passed.
Aug. 28: “Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted Slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Services of such Slaves” is passed and issued to take effect on 1 August 1834. The Act declares that the former enslaved people must serve a period of apprenticeship before receiving full emancipation. Originally this period was set at six years, but it was later reduced to four.
Slavery replaced by apprenticeship in British colonies.
Full freedom granted in British colonies.
A group of 49 enslaved Africans on board the slave ship Amistad revolt off the coast of Cuba. The ship lands at New London, USA, where the Africans are taken into custody. American abolitionists take up their cause and in March 1841 the Supreme Court upholds their freedom.