Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Class lecture re Topic Four of CAS 130 Caribbean Studies Course Outline

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
Posted: October 18, 2013
Updated: January 16, 2015

Economic and political aspects of the Abolition of Slavery

Economic Aspects

On the economic side, the economics of the exercise/slavery business was becoming too expensive/unprofitable for two reasons (1) West Indian sugar monopoly was being challenged by large sugar-producing countries in the East Indies (competition) and (2) a new group of powerful industrialists (products of the Industrial Revolution) emerged in the 19th century. Slavery business changed from a labor-intensive to a capital-intensive mode of production--- slaves became redundant/expendable; machines replaced slaves (Automation/self-service today).

In 1832, these industrialists dominated the Euro-British Parliament.

These Parliamentarians embraced/accepted the economic argument put forward by Adam Smith in his book titled Wealth of Nations (1776) to abolish slavery, Adam Smith argued as follows: "The work of freemen comes cheaper in the end than that performed by slaves. Forced labor was done less well than paid work. Slavery is expensive when one adds up the costs of buying and keeping slaves and paying towards the forces needed to prevent revolts."

Political Aspects

In 1787, the Quakers (human rights organization-similar to Amnesty International today) formed "The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade." Its main leaders were James Ramsay, Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce.

The first person to begin public agitation against the slave trade was Granville Sharp.

On 25 March 1807, the "Abolition of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Act" was introduced in the British Parliament.

In 1832, Henry Whitely, a Quaker, published a pamphlet describing his seven-month observations about the treatment of slaves in Jamaica.

In April 1833, the British government sent its own delegation to investigate/verify Whitely's findings.

On 29 August 1833, the "Abolition of Slavery Act" received royal assent (King William 1V) with effect from 1 August 1834.

The "Abolition of Slavery Act" was introduced in the British Parliament by William Wilberforce.

In 1834, the Euro-British government gave the slave-masters a "free gift" for the failure of their slavery business.

In 2009, US President Barack Obama granted a "Stimulus Package" worth $750 billion to failed businesses.

In 2009, the PNM government of Trinidad and Tobago granted a "bail-out" package to the failing CLICO business worth TT$19 billion.

At emancipation, 668,000 slaves were set free in the Euro-British colonies in the Caribbean.

The Abolition Bill provided a "free gift", not a loan, of 20 million pounds or US$91.2 million "to compensate the slave-owners for the loss of their slaves."

Euro-British slave Apprenticeship slave system: It was limited to six years for field-hands and four years for house-servants. Apprentices were to receive no wages but were to be supplied with food and clothing. They were required not to work more than forty and a half hours per week.

In the early post 1834(38) years, 'freed' slaves never left the plantations--- "disguised enslavement."

Abolition of Slavery re Europeans:

  • Britain 1834(38)

  • Denmark 1846-48

  • Sweden 1847

  • France 1848

  • Dutch 1850

  • United States 1865

  • Portugal 1869

  • Spain 1880-1886

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

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