A chronology of abolition and emancipation
1562 : First English slave trade expedition by Sir John Hawkins.
1619 : first recorded cargo of African slaves landed in Virginia.
1631 : Charles I grants monopoly on Guinea trade to London merchants.
1672 : Britain charters the Royal African Company, in charge of recruiting slaves in Africa and bringing them to America and the West Indies .
1754 : The Society of Friends (Quakers) in Philadelphia condemns the slave trade .
1758 : The Society of Friends of Philadelphia states that slave owners risk damnation. The Society of Friends in London also condemns slavery and the slave trade
1760 : Tacky’s revolt in Jamaica by Coromantee slaves. Death of some 60 whites, leaders of the revolt burnt to death or starved in public.
1761 : The Society of Friends in London also condemns slave owners.
1765 : Jonathan Strong case . Coromantee uprising in St Mary’s Parish, Jamaica.
Slave revolt in Grenada. Granville Sharp campaigns to abolish slavery in the UK
1769 : Granville Sharp ; A Representation of the Justice and Dangerous Tendency of tolerating Slavery in England.
1770 : Abbé Raynal : Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes.
1772 : James Somerset’s case : Mansfield judges that Somerset’s master has no right to compel him to return to the West Indies as he now lives in England. The decision is important because it creates a precedent, although it is restricted to the case of James Somerset and does not mean that all slaves setting foot on the British soil are to become freemen.
1773 : Antony Benezet, author of A Caution and Warning to Great Britain and the Colonies (1767), the Massachusetts abolitionist, visits London and argues against slavery.
1774 : The Philadelphia Society of Friends adopts rules forbidding Quakers to buy and sell slaves and requires its members to prepare for emancipation. The US Continental Congress bans slave importations.
1775 : Appointment of a Commission of the House of Commons to take evidence on the slave trade.
US Congress excludes free blacks from future enlistment and prevents Negroes from being armed.
1776 : American declaration of Independence. The Second Continental Congress resolves « that no slaves be imported into any of the Thirteen United Colonies ».
British MP David Hartley moves a resolution in British Parliament against the slave trade.
Adam Smith shows slavery is not rational from an economic point of view.
1777: the Vermont Constitution prohibits slavery.
1778 : Virginia prohibits the importation of slaves.
1779 : probably the last public sale of a black slave in England.
1780 : Wilberforce elected MP for Hull , aged 21 years. The assembly of Pennsylvania adopts a gradual emancipation law.
1783 : Zong case : 133 Africans thrown overboard a slave ship. Granville Sharp publicizes the event. A bill is introduced in the House of Commons forbidding officials of the Royal African Company to sell slaves.
1784 : first petition against the slave trade sent to the House of Commons by a municipality, the town of Bridgwater. Rhode Island and Connecticut pass gradual emancipation laws.
1786 : Thomas Clarkson and Wilberforce embrace the abolitionist cause. Clarkson publishes An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species.
1787 : formation of The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade
( Wilberforce, Clarkson, Sharp and Wedgwood)
Manchester launches the first petition campaign.
Plan to found a new African colony at Sierra Leone to be settled by freed slaves. On 8th April the first black settlers leave on the sloop Nautilus.
The US Constitutional Convention forbids Congress from ending the slave trade until 1808 and enacts the Northwest ordinance, prohibiting slavery in the territories north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi rivers.
1788 : The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade launches a national petition campaign against the slave trade. Pitt asks The Privy Council Committee for Trade and Plantations to start an enquiry on the British commercial relations with Africa, i.e. investigate the slave trade.
John Wesley delivers a sermon in Bristol on the immorality of slavery.
John Newton, a repented slave ship captain, publishes Thoughts on the African Trade.
Dolben Act: introduced by abolitionist Dolben, it was a slight improvement as it reduced the number of slaves authorized on slave ships.
1789 : Wilberforce’s great speech against slavery launches the abolition process. He introduces 12 resolutions against the slave trade on 12 May. The House of Commons sets
up its own committee of inquiry.
La Société des Amis des Noirs urges the Estates-General (i.e. in French Les Etats Généraux) to free the slaves in the French colonies but the Assembly sides with the white planters.
1790: The Select Committee in the House of Commons examines witnesses on the slave trade.
The first Maroon War of Dominica ends.
In the US the Quakers and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society petition Congress against slavery and the slave trade. Benjamin Franklin signs this petition as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.
1791 : Wilberforce unsuccessfully tries to introduce a bill on abolition .(the vote loses by 163 to 88 in British Parliament) Parliament grants a charter to the Sierra Leone Company.
Civil war breaks up in Saint Domingue, the slaves of the North province revolt. Uprising of the slaves in British Dominica.
1792: Parliament receives 519 petitions against the trade. Wilberforce introduces a bill to abolish the trade. Henry Dundas brings an amendment to the bill seeking the gradual abolition of the trade and determining on 1796 as the date for the end. The Lords fail to assent and ask for a new enquiry.
Popular movement to boycott sugar and other produce of slavery : about 300 000 people boycott sugar;
In France the Legislative Assembly decrees equal rights for all free blacks and mulattoes in the colonies.
1793 : Louis XVI executed, France declares war on Britain. Britain sends troops to capture French colonies. Sonthonax issues a general emancipation decree in Saint Domingue.
1794: the French national Convention abolishes slavery in all the French colonies. Britain captures Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Lucia , restores slavery, but loses the latter two again.
1795 : Wilberforce again unsuccessfully tries to introduce an abolition bill to end the trade in 1796. Fedon revolt in Grenada against the British governor : slaves rebel and support the French Jacobins.
1796 : abolition vote loses by four votes only .
1797 : Wilberforce fails to introduce an abolition bill. The Dolben Act is renewed. Britain captures Trinidad from Spain.
1798: Wilberforce fails to introduce an abolition bill.
1799: and again Wilberforce fails to introduce an abolition bill. New York passes a gradual emancipation law.
1800: Toussaint L’Ouverture fully controls Saint Domingue.
1801: Toussaint captures Spanish Santo Domingo, unifies the island, becomes governor for life and abolishes slavery. Napoleon sends troops against him.
1802: Napoleon restores slavery in the French empire. Toussaint is captured and transported to France.
1803: Dessalines defeats the French and proclaims the independent republic of Haiti.
1804: Wilberforce introduces the fourth bill for abolition which passes the Commons but not the Lords. Haiti wins its independence. Dessalines is proclaimed Emperor.
1805: Abolition bill passes Commons but loses in the Lords.
Pitt issues an order-in-council forbidding the import of slaves to the three new West Indian colonies, Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice.
1806 : Pitt’s death. Formation of a pro-abolition “Ministry of All the Talents” by Lord Grenville and Charles James Fox.
1807: Grenville introduces the bill to abolish the slave trade within the British Colonies; it is passed in the Commons by 283 to 16 votes and in the House of Lords. The slave trade becomes illegal from 1 May 1807. American Congress passes the United States Slave Trade Act, prohibiting Americans from participating in the African slave trade.
1808: Thomas Clarkson publishes the History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament.
Mutiny in a regiment in Kingston, Jamaica.
1809: second Maroon war in Dominica.
1811: the British Parliament passes a law making slaving a felony punishable by transportation to Australia.
1812: war between Britain and the US. A British order-in-council requires Trinidad to set up a registry of slaves to help fight illegal importation.
1813: gradual emancipation is adopted in Argentina.
1814: The Treaty of Ghent ends the war between Britain and the United States and makes it explicit that the two countries will join forces to end the slave trade. An article of the first Treaty of Paris restores the French trade for five years. A mass petition of some 755 000 signatures is sent against that article. Thomas Clarkson tries to move French opinion. Guadeloupe and Martinique are returned to France. Wilberforce tries to introduce the Registry Bill to the Commons, a law requiring the centralized registration of all West Indian slaves.
The Netherlands prohibit slave trading.
1815: At the Congress of Vienna, which ends Napoleonic wars in Europe, British Foreign Secretary Castlereagh obtains only a vague declaration condemning the slave trade. The threat of a possible economic boycott of all the nations refusing to follow Britain’s example frightens Napoleon, who at the outset of his hundred Days, issues a decree abolishing the French slave trade, probably in order to gain English public support. The Bourbon government after the fall of Napoleon acquiesces to English demands for an abolition law. However the French fail to publish the new law and so French slave trade continues.
1816: Blacks begin to win emancipation in the Latin American wars of independence. Bussa’s slave rebellion in Barbados.
1818 : Castlereagh fails to secure the international right of search of slave ships at the congress of Aix La Chapelle.
1819: the British Parliament passes a compromise measure for the registration of colonial slaves. Britain establishes an anti-slave trade squadron on the Coast of Africa. The USA also authorize an African naval patrol.
1820: the US Congress defines the slave trade as piracy.
1821: Venezuela, Columbia and Chile abolish slavery.
1822: Britain fails to obtain a maritime police to suppress the slave trade at the international Congress of Verona.
1823 : Anti-Slavery Society formed by Sir Thomas Folwell Buxton : the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery . Demerara slaves’ revolt (in British Guiana). Wilberforce publishes An Appeal to the religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire. Clarkson publishes Thoughts on the Necessity of Improving the Condition of the Slaves in the British Colonies.
Slavery is abolished in Chile.
1824 : The British Parliament passes a bill stipulating that any British subject guilty of trading slaves should be convicted of felony and incur death penalty and approves Canning’s proposals for the amelioration of colonial slavery. The government recommends specific reforms to colonial governors. Bishoprics are established for Jamaica and Barbados.
Slavery is abolished in Central America.
1826: James Stephen publishes England Enslaved by her Own Colonies.
1829: slavery is abolished in Mexico.
1831: The “Christmas Rebellion” or ‘the Baptist War”, the largest slave rebellion in the British West Indies occurs in Jamaica, led by Samuel Sharpe.
Slavery is abolished in Bolivia. The French again abolish their slave trade.
1832: Great Reform Act (great electoral reform extending franchise to the Dissenters and a large portion of the middle classes. End of “rotten boroughs” and representation of the new cities.) The reformed British Parliament appoints a select committee to “consider and report upon the Measures which it may be expedient to adopt for the purpose of Effecting the Extinction of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, at the earliest period compatible with the safety of all classes in the Colonies”. The “Christmas rebellion” is crushed in Jamaica.
1833 : Abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Yet the Emancipation Act compels former slaves to serve their masters for a period of six years as apprentices. Death of William Wilberforce, buried at Westminster Abbey.
1834: Slave emancipation, qualified by the “apprenticeship” period comes into effect on 1 August in the colonies, when the 1833 Emancipation bill becomes a law. A new French society for the Abolition of Slavery is formed.
1837 : Drag’s mutiny in the First West Indian regiment in Trinidad.
1838 : 700 000 former slaves in the British West Indian Colonies officially achieve their freedom.
1839: the Pope condemns the slave trade.
1840: Thomas Clarkson presides at the international Antislavery Convention in London. The Convention aims at the emancipation of American slaves.
1841: a Treaty is signed in Europe, guaranteeing mutual rights to search vessels for slaves. France refuses to ratify it.
1842: slavery is abolished in Uruguay.
1844: French workers petition the Chamber of Deputies for slave emancipation.
1847: a second petition for slave emancipation is sent to the French Chamber.
1848: slavery is abolished in France and in the Danish colonies.
1851: slavery is abolished in Ecuador. The slave trade to Brazil is ended.
1865 : abolition of slavery throughout the USA.
1873: abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico.
1886 : abolition of slavery in Cuba.
1888 : abolition of slavery in Brazil.
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