Slavery and Abolitionism in the British West Indies
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: LSU Press
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Revolutionary emancipation : slavery and abolitionism in the British West ISBN 978-0-8071-4988-1 (cloth : alk. paper) â ISBN 978-0-8071-4989-8 (pdf) â ISBN 978-0-8071-4990-4 (epub) â ISBN 978-0-8071-4991-1 (mobi) 1. Slav-eryâWest Indies, BritishâHistoryâ19th century. 2. Slave tradeâWest Indies, 2012027976...
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The intellectual controversy over Britainâs abolition of its transatlan-tic slave trade and colonial slavery is well known; a brief comment on some of the seminal contributors to the debate puts the current study into perspective. Given the modern Caribbeanâs proud tradi-tion of radical intellectualism, it is hardly surprising that radical Pan-Africanism under the influence of international socialism of the 1930s accentuated attacks against the hegemony of an imperialist historiography that silenced diaspora Africans as agency in the history of the region and glorified Christian morality over economic imperatives in the regeneration of ...
1. Explicating the “Grand Evils” of Colonialism
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When the French National Assembly legislated the general aboli-tion of slavery in 1794, the slave trade was also abolished ipso facto. On the contrary, British abolitionists doggedly justified distinguishing slavery from the slave trade on the teleological premise that no other evil âwas comparable to that of the Af-rican Slave Trade.â 1 Contemporary voices explicitly acknowledged two evils of the colonial system: the barbarism of African enslavement and the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade. Most were predisposed to consider them âdistinct from each otherâ or else perfunctorily dismissed them as necessary evils.2...
2. Humanity Enchained
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The Navigation Acts ended the short era of proprietary government but not the rule of the plantocracy.1 One of the Crownâs major con-cessions was nonintervention in domestic slavery. The planter-dominated assemblies aggressively defended this compromise as a right of charter beyond the reach of Crown and Parliament. No party seriously considered the humanity of the enslaved until the onset of proprietary amelioration in the 1760s. For the next four decades embryonic amelioration experiments progressed slowly and unsystematically. Notwith-standing, they ignited an early spark that attracted the attention of metropoli-...
3. Pragmatizing Amelioration and Abolition
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Slavery reform and antislavery were contradictions inherent within slavery itself. Not surprisingly, both statutory amelioration and pros-elytizing, the two major facets of British slaveryâera trusteeship, had their origins in the West Indies. Amelioration was the cornerstone of trusteeship, proselytizing its corollary. This perspective implicitly acknowledges a subaltern agency while transferring the accreditation for the genesis of British trusteeship from Edmund Burke to Edward Long.1 Long was a pioneer-advocate for statutory amelioration as a means to a greater end: the total creolization of plantation labor. This was his major social response to ...
4. Abolitionism and Empire
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To situate Edmund Burkeâs role in British imperial trusteeship, it is necessary to consider the significance of India in the emerging moral imperium. India features prominently in major studies on Britainâs adoption of trust, yet there is a tendency among scholars to misconstrue Burkeâs significance to, as well as his motive for, trusteeship in India. A royal charter granted the East India Company full proprietary control over British India, including the executive, the military, and the judiciary.1 Excessive power was a formula for excessive abuses. The first serious attempt to restrain the directors of the company was the Regulat-...
5. The Haitian Revolution and Other Emancipation Wars
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The Haitian Revolution climaxed almost three hundred years of sus-tained revolutionary emancipationism. It was the pivotal moment in the contest between the right of Africans to liberty and the right of Europeans to property in them. It also provides the key to the ebb and flow of abolitionism between 1791 and 1807. The Haitian Revolution went beyond its French counterpart to break the chains of private property that bound Europeans to prevarication on the universal right to unconditional liberty. No contemporary European understood the psychology of the moment better than James Stephen. He called upon his countrymen to ...
6. From Revolution to Abolition
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Britainâs capture of Trinidad in 1797, its defeat in St. Domingue, and the success of West Indian gradualism were pivotal events in the countdown to abolition. Metropolitan civil society involvement was unquestionably intrinsic to the politics of abolitionism, but the larger undercurrent of change in parliamentary abolitionism flowed from events and developments in the colonies. Implementation of the final phase of the 1792 resolutions earmarked for 1796 was overtaken by the exi-gency of black military conscription. One year after the proposed Abolition Day, Parliamentâs endorsement of amelioration struck a crippling blow to the ...
7. Imperatives of Creole Colonization
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Within four months of Canningâs Creole colonization blueprint, the British government was moving full speed to implement some of its key proposals. Secretary of state for the colonies Lord Hobart explained to Governor Picton, âThe peculiar situ-ation of the West Indian Colonies at the present period, and the opinions which have been expressed in this Country against permitting the importation of Slaves from Africa to Trinidad, may make it necessary to have recourse to other than the common modes for the Settlement and improvement of that valuable acquisition.â 1 Hobart required Picton to as-...
8. New-Modeling in Action
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The adoption of Canningâs vision for Trinidad as a new colonial para-digm linked the islandâs destiny to the future of colonial slavery. The contradictions inherent in the Trinidad model climaxed in Ja-maicaâs Baptist War, compelling the abandonment of gradualism and the adoption of a new remedy in immediate emancipation. Post-abolition colonial policy was overshadowed by the Felony Act and the conten-tious registration order-in-council. Thus, the year 1813 saw the first transition to civilian governorship under Sir Ralph Woodford. His main mandate was to ensure the success of registration, manage the inflows of Africans into the ...
9. The Launch of Imperial Amelioration
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Postconquest economic policy in Trinidad frustrated the limited objectives of amelioration. The lure of Trinidadâs virgin soils and high sugar prices presented major challenges to the imperial gov-ernmentâs policy of curbing the plantation revolution. Despite the largely successful land policy, sugar estates increased from 192 to 221 between 1802 and 1813.1 Although the average plantation labor force was greatly enlarged under English ownership, the phenomenal increase in sugar production from 1805 was disproportionate to the growth of the labor force. Sugar exports rose from 4.9 million pounds in 1799 to 15 million pounds ...
10. Constitutional Militancy
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In accordance with the amelioration ordinance, legal battles between enslavers and enslaved were fought at three levels. Minor domestic of-fenses were decided by the protector or his assistants.1 Complaints of serious infringements of the law, including capital oï¬enses, were adju-dicated in the criminal courts.2 An intermediate jurisdiction was created by the proclamation of 23 June 1824. This amendment was expressly designed to satisfy proprietorsâ demand that enslaved laborers receive greater punish-ment than what was authorized under proprietary authority.3 The amending ordinance widened the magisterial net over amelioration. In Port of Spain ...
11. Breaking the Chains
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By the 1820s it was evident that colonial reformers had to contend with a rapidly industrializing metropolitan economy, central to which was the need to transform the volatile labor system for opti-mum productivity and security. There was yet no urgency to suggest, however, that radical change was on the horizon. Even the inter-vention of the metropolis in amelioration was experimental, focused largely on the Crown colonies, and still gradualist. The swing to radical change was driven by metropolitan desperation to preempt the ever-widening paths of destruction from major insurgencies launched by the enslaved in the postâ...
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The problem of security created by insurrectionism of the enslaved across the British colonies from the mid-eighteenth century ar-rested the attention of key spokesmen of empire, leading to the im-perial adoption of amelioration as the flagship policy to validate and cushion the abolition of the slave trade. The dramatic failure of amelioration as a system of social control compelled metropolitans to concede general emancipation as a new security strategy. Unquestionably, the popular metropolitan movement in England was indispensable to the politics of aboli-tionism, goading Crown and Parliament into action. The chief parliamentary ...
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...1. C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint LâOuverture and the San Domingo Revolu-tion, rev. ed. (1938; New York: Random House, 1963); for precursors to Williams, see William Darity Jr., âEric Williams and Slavery: A West Indian Viewpoint?â Callaloo 20, no. 4 (1997), 2. See, e.g., Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, The Life and Times of William Wilberforce (London, 1838); George Stephen, Anti-Slavery Recollections: In a Series of Letters ...
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This study relied heavily on manuscripts and other archival sources in the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago. Archival sources in France provided valuable insights into the revolutionary 1790s in the Caribbean. In the United Kingdom the Public Record Oï¬ce, British Library, Colindale Newspaper Library, Lambeth Palace, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, Bodleian ...
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Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Antislavery, Abolition, and the Atlantic World