The Development of Abolitionism

The Development of Abolitionism


The tiresome struggle for freedom among a misrepresented class.

Humble Beginnings

  • London, England

Slavery was an institution utilized by many nations for the distinct purpose of asserting power and domination.  In the most recent centuries, however, the realization of the cruelty and injustice forced on others prompted many prominent individuals to respond in revolutionary manners.  Realizing their objectives, careful inquiries into the gradual dissolving of slavery prompted many important facts about true equality between those of different races.

As Britain was among the premier world powers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, their global reputation was reflected in the English government's treatment of colonized nations.  In the British Isles, enforced servitude had been eradicated by the latter seventeenth century.  However, as wealth increased once again, the appearance of foreign domestic servants prevailed once again.

This was not entirely fluid, however, as issues of equality prompted the enslaved to rebel.  One such runaway slave, Joseph Somerset, claimed to have been abducted by his owner to be shipped to work on a sugar plantation in Jamaica.  His case of freedom from enslavement was eventually decided by Lord Mansfield, of the Royal Court of the King's Bench.  In his landmark 1772 decision, Lord Mansfield asserted:

"...The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political; but only positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory: it's so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged."

Accordingly, he ruled that slavery was illegal under then present English Law, prompting the release of the thousands of enslaved Africans.  The abolitionist cause was strengthened by such a verdict, where the government asserted the freedom of another race.  This was the first of many triumphs and failures that would accompany the eraditcation of this evil practice among civilized society.

Consequently, the cause of freedom would meet great opposition in the years to follow, in other international cases.

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