Tag Archives: History

Brexit and the Slave Trade

As I was scrolling down my junk mail an email caught my eye. There was something about it that made me stop and read it a little more. It was talking about all the negative things that may possibly happen because of Brexit in the hopes, I suppose, of stirring up paranoia and widespread anxiety in people. Due to the politically correct society we live in people are almost scared to say anything positive about their country in fear of being labelled racist or nationalistic. However, God tells us to speak positive things about ourselves and our communities and he has called us to be a light to this world. We must also speak positive things about our country if we want to see them happen. Words have power whether they are spoken by our mouths or on paper.

However, when I saw this email I was reminded again of William Wilberforce who fought to end the slave trade and I couldn’t help myself but think what the lies the newspapers may have said about him and the abolition movement. Here is my possible interpretation below.

Could You Get ‘Special Exemption’?

With the abolition of the slave trade on the horizon, Sir Frank Green Lord Mayor of London has suggested that certain businessmen and trade owners could be given special status with respect to the slave trade in the event of a complete abolition.

 

 

Are 1 In 5 merchants Set To Leave The UK For the Americas?

A survey conducted by Kentish Gazette suggests the potential impact that criminalising the Slave Trade could have on Britain’s business culture, with 21% of merchants considering moving their headquarters to the Americas in order to maintain their civil liberties.

Phased Slavery Controls Are A Possibility In UK

A new government whitepaper detailing the UK’s steps towards an abolition suggests that citizens holding certain positions and connections to parliament living in the UK may not be asked to ‘surrender’ their slaves and that, instead, slave ownership will instead be ‘phased out’.

Abolition- another word for treason?

Due to the current situation between UK and France many MPs have declared the work of the abolitionists ‘an absolute joke’ at the least and ‘a jab in the back of the king’. The abolitionists have been accused of encouraging disloyalty to the crown and stirring up civil unrest. The current issue that lies with France suggests that any talk of abolition may be enough to provoke an accusation of treason.

Britain’s worst days are yet to come

According to an article published just yesterday in The Register the UK will seek to lose an immeasurable amount of wealth if the abolitionists have their way. The UK has benefited greatly and the slave trade has provided a surplus of jobs for many ordinary labourers. Most MPs have eradicated any mention of support for abolition and continue to oppose any changes to the current constitution. William Wilberforce is standing alone in his defiance. According to sources only 19% of British citizens are in favour of the abolition of the slave trade.

Perhaps you’ve seen some similar headlines in these past few months. I know I have although not regarding the slave trade of course. I can only imagine the amount of people who were constantly out to trip up William Wilberforce and the amount of traps and ambushes that were waiting for him at every turn. However, there was hope because Heaven was on his side and no matter the amount of newspapers stirring up hatred, opposing MPs and general negativity God had His way. Thanks to William Wilberforce’s stamina and faith in God many millions of slaves were released from a life of misery and sorrow and could taste the true beauty of freedom.

My prayer is that despite the negativity and the opposition we would fix our eyes on Heaven and do whatever it is that God has called us to. And it may be that one day you will be the one William Wilberforce would like to meet!

 

Faith Leads Nations

The slave trade as we remember it began in the 15th century although people had been trading other people throughout the ages. Olaudah Equiano (a friend of William Wilberforce), who was a former slave explained, “…how he and his sister were captured by fellow Africans who then sold them on to eventually be exchanged with the ship owners and taken to work in Europe.”.

Merchants in England under a spirit of greed and deception despatched more than 10,000 voyages to Africa for slaves. The money from the slave trade built the rich fine mansions, established banks, funded other institutes and ports benefited too. The bankers, factory owners, slave owners and plantation owners all grew richer at the expense of the slaves. The profits also helped finance the industrial revolution and by the end of the 18th century approximately four million pounds had come into Britain from its West Indie plantations.

It was at this point that a man came onto the scene.  His name, William Wilberforce*. William Wilberforce was seemingly alone in his fight against slavery especially at the start. However he did have scores of the host of heaven with him and he knew nevertheless that however corrupt the politicians were and however difficult they made his life, he had a mandate and that was to fight for the lives of ALL human beings. They ridiculed him, after all on the outside Britain had prospered from the slave trade (well they the rich had). The ordinary people however were not so easily persuaded. Poverty was still rocket high and the poor died in their youth and in appalling conditions. William Wilberforce knew the truth that if you distance yourself from corruption and lies and you fight for true justice you will reap the benefits not only as an individual but also as a nation.

However, they laughed and scorned him, to them they were completely right. It was the richest part of Britain’s trade and after all to them ‘Africans were thought to be sub-human, uncivilised, and inferior’. James Houston who worked for a firm of 18th century slave merchants wrote “what a glorious and advantageous trade this is…it is on the hinge of which all the trade of this globe moves”.  His words may seem terrible and offensive now but in the wake of society he was only echoing what was indeed happening in his eyes.  The elite and politicians were angry and disillusioned because they believed that they were being robbed of their livelihoods and many benefits, although many did receive compensation from the government in return for the freedom of their slaves.

In 1834 the slave trade ended. However, it is not surprising that in this same year the poor law amendment act was passed which took away many rights of the poor and pushed them into further poverty. This I believe was a distraction from the true benefits that Britain would later reap as a result of leaving the slave trade. There was fierce hostility and organised opposition from many and the amended act was eventually amended once again.

An assessment would highlight that the profits of slavery were more modest than the great bonanza that was once thought to have taken place, and that the contribution of slavery and the slave trade to national income was very marginal at best. Britain didn’t suddenly sink into the Mariana trench and disappear into the depths of the ocean. She didn’t suddenly find herself sucked into a storm and crashing mercilessly upon the rocks. It did indeed take a leap of faith to end the slave trade but when many millions of lives were set free abroad and at home something happened in the heavenlies and a great spiritual shift took place. God honoured those faithful abolitionists who gave their lives heart and soul for the cause.

During the Victorian era although Britain experienced a great many problems and there were a great many atrocities done in the name of ‘the empire’ many ordinary people did indeed climb out of poverty. Many great philanthropists were born, many inventors were successful and healthcare and education all improved vastly. The faith of the people grew and God was once again honoured in many homes and lives throughout the British Isles.

Slavery was abolished and I believe that because as a nation we took a stand against it we prospered and gained many benefits that in turn we could use the bless the rest of the world and that is what happened in many ways. Many listened to the words of these brave abolitionists who even risked their lives for their fight against slavery. Faith was very much a large part of society and even though yes there was still much poverty and evil where there was true faith there was true prosperity and blessing (Birmingham is one great example of this).

I feel that as a nation we need to take a stand once again. We need to become a forerunner on some of these giant global issues that are destroying lives whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually. Is England ready to take the helm and launch into the open sea? I believe that yes we are and we will see wonders as a result. But we must be prepared to take up our cross and follow him first and foremost.

*William Wilberforce meaning: Resolute protector with wilful force (I just thought the name meaning was so interesting that I would share it with you)

william

 

Sources:

The Illustrated Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James (Little, Brown, 1999)

The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Eighteenth Century edited by PJ Marshall (OUP, 1998)

Atlas of British Overseas Expansion edited by AN Porter (Routledge, 1994)

Kenneth Morgan (2014) Found at: www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/trade_empire_01.shtml

abolition.e2bn.org/slavery_45.html  (Accessed February 2017)