Abolition of Slavery

About this Collection

The anti-slavery movement emerged in the late 18th century as part of the more general movement of reform known as the Enlightenment. As major colonial powers with extensive slave colonies France and Britain both had a significant anti-slavery movement. The effort to abolish slavery began with a campaign to end the traffic in slaves from Africa across the Atlantic, and then to abolish slavery within the colonies. The arguments used against slavery and the slave trade were a mixture of religious, moral, political, and economic arguments.

Key People

Titles & Essays

A – Z List

America

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Language And Literature

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Social History And Conditions. Social Problems. Social Reform

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United States

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Quotes

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Adam Smith on Slavery

Adam Smith

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Benjamin Franklin on making the transition from slavery to civil liberty (1789)

Benjamin Franklin

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Emerson on the right of self-ownership of slaves to themselves and to their labor (1863)

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Frederick Douglass and his Desire to be Free

Frederick Douglass

Education

Frederick Douglass and His Secret Education

Frederick Douglass

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Frederick Douglass makes a New Year’s resolution to gain his freedom from slavery (1836)

Frederick Douglass

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Frederick Douglass on Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

Frederick Douglass

Quote

Frederick Douglass on Religion and Slavery

Frederick Douglass

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Frederick Douglass on the Ballot Box, the Jury Box, and the Cartridge Box

Frederick Douglass

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Harriet Martineau on the institution of slavery, “restless slaves”, and the Bill of Rights (1838)

Harriet Martineau

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

J.B. Say argues that colonial slave labor is really quite profitable for the slave owners at the expense of the slaves and the home consumers (1817)

Jean-Baptiste Say

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

John Calhoun on Slavery as a Positive Good

John C. Calhoun

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

John Millar argues that as a society becomes wealthier domestic freedom increases, even to the point where slavery is thought to be pernicious and economically inefficient (1771)

John Millar

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

John Stuart Mill on “the sacred right of insurrection” (1862)

John Stuart Mill

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

John Stuart Mill on the “atrocities” committed by Governor Eyre and his troops in putting down the Jamaica rebellion (1866)

John Stuart Mill

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Sir William Blackstone declares unequivocally that slavery is “repugnant to reason, and the principles of natural law” and that it has no place in English law (1753)

Sir William Blackstone

Education

The ex-slave Frederick Douglass reveals that reading speeches by English politicians produced in him a deep love of liberty and hatred of oppression (1882)

Frederick Douglass

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Thomas Clarkson on the “glorious” victory of the abolition of the slave trade in England (1808)

Thomas Clarkson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Thomas Jefferson on Slavery and Liberty

Thomas Jefferson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Thomas Jefferson on Slavery and the Wrath of God

Thomas Jefferson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Thomas Jefferson’s First Draft of the Declaration of Independence denounced the slave trade as an “execrable Commerce” and slavery itself as a “cruel war against nature itself” (1776)

Thomas Jefferson

Notes About This Collection

For more information see:

  • David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970).
  • David Brion David, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revoltuion, 1770-1823 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977).
  • Roger Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760-1810 (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1975).
  • William M. Wiecek, The Sources of Antislavery Constitutionalism in America, 1760-1848 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977).
  • Robin Blackburn, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848 (London: Verso, 1988).