Sunday, March 25, 2007


"We may now consider that this trade as having received its condemnation; that its sentence is sealed; that this curse of mankind is seen by the House in its true light; and that the greatest stigma on our national character which ever exisited is about to be removed." - William Pitt in the House of Commons, 2 April 1792. Slightly prematurely, as the slave trade would only be abolished 15 years later, on 25th March 1807, and slavery itself banned throughout the British colonies in 1833.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the banning of the slave trade in the British Empire. While Britain was the most active and successful slave trading nation in the
18th century, it was also the first nation in recorded history to ban slave trading, and thence forward actively promoted the end of slavery internationally. From our perspective, slavery seems obviously wrong, but at that time it was common to justify slavery on biblical grounds - the dreaded Leviticus, no less, sanctions it. Fifty years after Britain banned the slave trade, the southern States of the USA were still using Leviticus to justify slavery, a position which led to the Civil War.

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