Class Conflict, Hegemony and the Costs of Antislavery

  • Seymour Drescher


For the abolitionists, freedom was the avowed central issue in the debate over slavery. For the planters and their allies, the central concern was labour, as it had been during the whole history of the British Caribbean. It has also increasingly been so defined by historians as the central problem of the empire, and of the abolitionists as well. It is therefore important to consider both the costs of abolition and the fate of labour during the age of British abolition.


Slave Trade Factory Movement Class Conflict Caribbean Black Slave Labour 
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Notes and References

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    S. Bradburn, An Address to the People called Methodists (Manchester, 1792), 20–1. Davis cites Bradburn’s Address as an instance of the dissenting public’s sense of powerlessness (Slavery inRevolution, 381). It seems rather to be infused with the new sense of popular power that welled up in Britain before the reaction of late 1792.Google Scholar
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    Less than a week before the Parliamentary discussion of April 1792 squibs appeared designating abolitionism as a stalking horse for the Opposition and for repealers of the Test Act (Diary, 29 March 1792). A more sustained counter-attack began about a week after the abolition debates. See Morning Herald, 9–14, 18, 20, 21 April 1792; The World, 12, 13, 14 April 1792. The link was clearly illustrated in the headline ‘CA IRA CLUB — HIC NIGER’ which continued: ‘CHIMNEY SWEEPERS trample (in idea) over LORDS and LADIES; they kick down DUKES, and relegate the concerns of mighty EMPIRES!’ (ibid., 13 April). The Morning Herald quickly extended its sneers to meetings of manufacturers in Sheffield, weavers in Manchester and ‘the sons of Levi’ in London (20 March 1792). See also Morning Chronicle, 13 April 1792; The Oracle, 3 May 1792; Morning Herald, 30 April; Star, 25 April 1792. The World, 14 April 1792, referred to meetings of ‘the Soot Club of Democrats’. Antiabolitionists and abolitionists alike linked the liberation of Africa, Europe, America and Asia.Google Scholar
  32. Major Crewe, A Very New Pamphlet Indeed!containing some strictures on the English Jacobins and evidencerespecting the Slave Trade (London, 1792); The British Tocsin; or, Proofs of National Ruin (London, 1792), 49; Political Dictionary (London, 1792), 131. An ‘Essay on the Slave Trade’ exposed the general ‘fallacy’ of Priestly, Paine and other modern reformers (Diary, 29 November 1792). Bentham did not publish his work on the political emancipation of the French Colonies, fearing that he would be taken for a Republican (HO 42/25 (1793), f. 391, Jeremy Bentham to Henry Dundas, 20 May 1793).Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    1807 was also ‘a year of low social tension’. See W. R. Ward, ‘Popular religion and the problem of control’, in C. J. Cuming and Derek Baker (eds), Popular Belief and Practice (London, 1972), 238–57, esp. 239. In less turbulent times abolitionists were more sympathetic to radical labels. The abolitionist The Philanthropist, 2 (1816), 292–327, took the position that ‘Jacobin’ was nine times out of ten applied to things that were worthwhile. (On the long-term continuity of ultra-radical abolitionism see McCalman, ‘Anti-Slavery’ (Mss).)Google Scholar
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    Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, 3rd ser., 3 (1831) 1137–40; 4 (1831), 372.Google Scholar
  35. 44.
    Our source for the Oldham election is R. A. Sykes, ‘Some Aspects of Working Class Consciousness in Oldham 1830–42’, Historical Journal, 23 (1980), 167–79. My thanks to James Esptein for bringing this essay to my attention. At Oldham in 1832, ‘the really crucial factor was the incompetence of both Whig and Tory parties … and, above all, the fact that both their eventual candidates were hopelessly tainted by involvement with negro slavery’. John Fielden, running with Cobbett at Oldham, explicitly demand immediate emmancipation with no compensation to ‘loud applause from the Radical and anti-slavery preachers’. (Manchester Courier, 15 December 1832.) Those who cast less than 25 per cent of their total votes for the Tory and Whig candidates were the weavers (5 per cent), shoemakers (0 per cent), tailors (0 per cent), miners (21 per cent), shopkeepers (11 per cent), butchers (21 per cent), and farmers (8 per cent). Those casting more than 75 per cent of their votes for the same candidates were cotton manufacturers (86 per cent), and clergy (100 per cent). (From Sykes, ‘Working class consciousness’, 174–5, Table 2.) See also table below. The Christian Observer of January 1833, 57, claimed that Oldham radicals ‘had done themselves the signal honour’ to elect the pro-emancipation Mr Cobbett, while Preston had ‘the good sense’ to reject the ‘unrepentant’ Mr. Hunt. The intensification of class conflict took many forms, and Oldham workers were class conscious in a democratic more than a socialist sense.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. See Gareth Stedman Jones ‘Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution’, in Language of Class: Studies in English working class history 1832–1982 (Cambridge, 1983), 60. Soon after emancipation the Manchester Wesleyans did split along class lines.Google Scholar
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  38. 49.
    Drescher, ‘Cart Whip’, 11–16. The concern with child labour by abolitionists was not entirely new in 1830. John Fothergill, one of Britain’s earliest abolitionists, was also among the first to emphasize the debilitating effects of lace and gauze manufactures on women and children. They ‘already appear like another race of people; that vigour and strength which distinguished the labouring poor of this kingdom from those of every other, is sunk down to pallid debility’. (See John Lettsom, Some Account of the late John Fothergill, M.D. (London, 1783), clxxvi.) The first popular campaign against slavery itself, in 1823, elicited a comparison between factory children and slaves by the journeymen cotton-spinners of Rochdale. (See Drescher, ‘Cart Whip’, 8.) What was novel after 1830 was the emergence of a mass factory-reform movement and its intensified ideological reliance on antislavery.Google Scholar
  39. 50.
    Cobbett’s Political Register 81 (3 August 1833), 257; Poor Man’s Guardian, 15 June, 10 August 1833. Compensation was not assumed at the popular level. At a meeting in Halifax a speaker mentioned the need for compensation. The response was: ‘no, no, from all parts of the meeting’. The Halifax and Huddersfield Express (23 February 1833.) A Bradford meeting of 2000 was told that the issue at hand was immediate emancipation. As for compensation, the speaker taunted, manufacturers would also like it for the hours they would lose under the Factory Bill.Google Scholar
  40. It simply would not be granted. (Ibid., 13 April 1833. See also note 42.) On the subsequent outrage over the financial terms of the Emancipation Bill, see Wheeler’s Manchester Chronicle, 14 May 1833; Leicester Chronicle, 22 May 1833. The Birmingham Journal, 15 June 1833, was astonished that Parliament could offer £20 million to the planters when free labour was cheaper than slave. The Blackburn Political Union, the Norwich Political Union, and the National Union of the Working Classes in London denounced the terms of the Emancipation Bill (Poor Man’s Guardian, 15 June 1833,196; 22 June 1833,199, 203. See also Voice of the West Riding, 1, 27 (20 July 1833), 56–7).Google Scholar
  41. 57.
    D. B. Davis, ‘The Crime of Reform’, New York Review of Books, 26 June 1980, 27 (II), 14; and Slavery inRevolution, 357; see also Hollis, ‘Anti-slavery and British Working-Class Radicalism’, 303. In Slavery and Human Progress, 340, note, Davis again joins the social base of antislavery and the New Poor Law: ‘both [measures] appealed for different reasons to reformers, administrators, and aristocratic landlords’. My own impression is that the principal reformers behind the New Poor Law, above all the political economists, were not very forward in supporting abolition. The aristocratic landlords were significantly overrepresented as protectors of the slave-owners in the House of Lords. The abolitionists, on the other hand, were overrepresented among the number of opponents to the ‘indoor’ relief provision of the New Poor Law in the House of Commons. See ‘Cart Whip’, 23, 24. The Parliamentary record still leaves open the question of popular support. Hollis assumes that both measures appealed to the same class base of support. (‘Anti-slavery’, 302–3.) This is an extension of Davis’s hypothesis that abolitionist ideology was closely tied to the unconscious interests of the English middle class, with its ‘highly selective response to labor exploitation’ (Slavery in.Revolution, 241–54, 358–61, 455–62). Davis sees another point of connection in the coincidence between Joseph Townsend’s ‘famous’ attack on the Old Poor Law in 1786 (favouring instead the spur of hunger for the poor) and the publication of Clarkson’s prize-winning Essay on Slavery the same year. Yet Townsend was one of the less likely candidates for a pro-hunger/antislavery ideological coalition. Townsend lavishly approved of slavery in the Spanish colonies: The treatment of the negroes in the Spanish settlements is so humane, so wise, so just, and so perfectly agreeable to the principles of political economy, that I rejoice in the opportunity of giving to their government the praise which is so peculiarly its due … Is not this regulation more beneficial to the whole community, than if all the slaves indiscriminately were restored to freedom? A Journey Through Spain in the Years 1786 and 1787, 3 vols (London, 1791), 2, 381–2.Google Scholar
  42. Townsend condemned Spanish galley slavery only for its pampering inefficiency, but not the English-run Spanish slave trade (ibid., 2, 381, and 3, 125). Elite British approval of the labour discipline of the workhouse should not be taken for granted for most of the early abolitionist era. In 1787 the ‘great objection’ against workhouses ‘among all humane gentlemen’ was that ‘this imprisonment, especially to grown up persons, is generally for life’. (Letter to the Norwich Mercury, 30 June 1787.) The free-labour ideology may have united some abolitionists and Poor Law reformers but incarceration was an obstacle, not an incentive, to convergence.Google Scholar
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    At the moment when the ‘Speenhamland’ extension of the poor-law system was taking shape, Whitbread, an abolitionist MP, pressed for the expansion of the Poor Law for the newly distressed labourers. (See Morning Chronicle, 19 November 1795.) The actions of 1795 represented a strengthening of customary obligations under the old Poor Law. See Peter Dunkley, ‘Whigs and Paupers: The Reform of the English Poor Laws 1830–1834’, Journal of British Studies, 20, 2 (Spring 1981), 124–49, esp. 126;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  45. Raymond G. Cowherd, Political Economists and the English Poor Laws (Athens, Ohio, 1977), Chapter 1. Whitbread introduced another Poor Law reform motion while the slave-trade Abolition Bill of 1807 was moving through the Commons. His measure provided for the abolition of already existing workhouses. (Substance of a Bill for Promoting and Encouraging Industry Amongst the Labouring Classes of the Community (London, 1807), 25.) For another ideological transference of antislavery to the poor see J. N. Brewer, Some Thoughts on the Present State of the English Peasantry; Written in Consequence of Mr. Whitbread’s motion in the House of Commons February 19, 1807, Relative to the Poor Laws, 24. Brewer spoke of the suffering ‘of those [poor] who herd together beneath one low roof, within almost as few square feet as are allowed to the victims on board an African slave ship’. One simply cannot attribute a ‘distractive’ function to abolitionism without systematic attention to the full range of analogical uses, their frequency, timing and context.Google Scholar
  46. 59.
    Sidney and Beatrice Webb, English Poor Law History 3 vols (London, 1927–29), II, 90–100. Historians assume that political economists were aligned with abolitionism. Contemporary workers thought differently in 1832. A Bolton political rally, with 5000 workers in procession, carried the following banners: The victims of the Political Economists’; ‘Success to the Loom’; ‘Better wages to the weavers’; ‘No monopolies’; ‘Abolition of Slavery’; ‘Tax the rich relieve the poor’; etc. Manchester Courier, 8 December 1832.Google Scholar
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    Drescher, ‘Two Variants’, 57–8; ‘Public Opinion’, 37–9. ‘The 1790s were perhaps the high point of both radical and artisan cultures in England’, while the early 1830s also marked another high point, this time of more class-conscious political activity. See Craig Calhoun, The Question of Class Struggle: The Social Foundations of Popular Radicalism during the Industrial Revolution (Chicago, 1982), 14. On the growing social gulf in the textile areas from the 1830s,Google Scholar
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    Mitchell and Deane, Abstract, 355. The long-term rate of cotton expansion began to decline in 1837–42, and the depression of 1846–9 universalized workhouses in Lancashire where per capita poor rates had ranked among the lowest in the nation. D. A. Farnie, The English Cotton, Industry and the World Market 1815–1896 (Oxford, 1979), 43, 63.Google Scholar
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    McDouall’s Chartist and Republican Journal was indifferent to the laissez-faire attack on the sugar duties. It was ‘the next humbug’. ‘What is that to the handloom weaver? What boon is it to any trade in this great nation?’ (29 May 1841, 65). McDouall’s also asked why Parliamentarians spent £20 000 000 to make sugar dearer for the sake of emancipating slaves and ‘now ask us to eat Cuba and Brazil sugar grown by slaves?’ 29 May 1841, 1. On the coverage given to Parliamentary comparisons of Jamaican and British workers, see ibid., 12 June 1841, 82–4. The Northern Star, 15 May 1841, 5, also considered the sugar debate a humbug.Google Scholar
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  56. 74.
    Compare Davis, Slavery in … Revolution, esp. 366–73, 461–2, with Betty Fladeland, Abolitionists and Working-Class Problems in the Age of Industrialization (London, 1984), Chapters 1, 3. Davis also implies that Sharp’s radicalism, always ‘backward looking’, became less radical and increasingly obsessed with ‘social discipline’ after the beginning of the Sierra Leone experiment (Slaveryin Revolution, 394–5, note). Davis may have relied too much on a West Indian accusation that Sharp urged Londoners to withold charity from the black poor to force them all to embark for Africa in 1788. At least 23 of the 440 who were boarded by February 1787 were discharged for ‘mutinous’ behaviour before sailing. In the second sailing, Sharp himself reduced the number of passengers by 30 per cent to eliminate crowding. See letter of Sharp to Dr John Coakney, 13 October 1788, in Huntington Library, Clarkson Papers, CN147. Sharp later favoured the extension of London parish relief to all the poor, regardless of origin. (The Star, 9 February 1792.) This would have obviously relieved the black poor of London as well. Far from moderating his position on abolition, Granville Sharp proposed general emancipation in the British colonies as the proper response to the French revolutionary strategy in the Caribbean. (Duke University Library, Wilberforce Papers, Sharp to Wilberforce, 4 June 1795.) When Capel Lofft rejoiced at Fox’s achievement in accelerating the abolition of the slave trade, Sharp emphasized that neither Fox ‘nor any other person in Parliament has yet urged the indispensable necessity of abolishing Slavery itself in the British colonies’ (Gloucestershire Record Office, Hardwicke Court Muniments, papers of Sharp, Box 28-F, Slave Trade, etc., Sharp to Lofft, 21 October 1806). For Sharp’s continued equation of the poor and the slaves, see also his Extract of a Letter to a Gentlemen in Maryland (London, 1793), 10. No one could have accused Sharp of creating a pretty picture of the English labourer. In his first tract on slavery he wrote: ‘If the English labourer is not able, with hard work, to earn more than what will barely provide him his necessary food and coarse or ragged clothing, what more can his employer reasonably desire of him, even if he were a slave?’ A Representation of the Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery (London, 1769), 75. Since the whole tenor of Sharp’s writings and behaviour was identification with the powerless, identifying him as an accessory to social discipline would seem to require a far more cogent analysis to establish this counter-intuitive proposition. On Sharp’s reforming activities, see copies of his letters at York Minster Library: 17 May 1768 on the apprehension of blacks in London; 4 August 1768 on the Florida Indians; 12 September 1769 on indentured servants in Virignia; 21 August 1772 on slaves and the slave trade in the colonies; 21 July 1772 on the immigrant poor in America; 18 February 1772 on the plight of Negroes, Indians and white servants in the colonies; 31 July 1772 on West Indian Slavery; 10 October 1772 on the natives of St Vincent; 21 December 1772 on the colliers and salters of Scotland; 18 November 1774 on the European slave trade; and some time in 1785 on the gleaning rights of English agricultural labourers. In short, Sharp added a new antislavery dimension to domestic radicalism and made himself the centre of a nascent network for the protection of one unfavored group after another. See also The Black Dwarf, 9 (4 September 1822) 343. Even at the peak of the anti-French reaction, Sharp denounced the enormous burden of war taxes (‘Barley … is taxed to the amount of at least 7 times the landlord’s Rent’) and the ‘illegal compulsion of Seaman’. There was ‘no safety but in a Constitutional Reformation’ (Bodleian Library, Wilberforce Ms, d. 15, f. 52).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    R. Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760–1810 (London, 1975), 181, Fladeland, Abolitionists, ix. For early radical pledges of support for abolition, see Huntington library, Clarkson Papers, Box 1, 1787–1818, CN123, letter of John Cartwright to Granville Sharp, 15 October 1787; Capel Lofft to S. Hoare, 23 December 1787.Google Scholar
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  59. 77.
    See, inter alia, Ipswich Journal, 5 April 1788; Chester Chronicle, 2 December 1791, 17, 24 February, 9, 16, 23, 30 March, 6, 27 April 1792; Northampton Mercury, 4 February 1792; Edinburgh Advertiser, 31 December 1791, 10 January 1792; The Bee, or Literary Weekly Intelligencer, 1, 9 February 1791, 228; Glasgow Advertiser, 23, 26 March, 18–21 May 1792; Manchester Herald, 14, 21, 28 April, 12 May, 9 June, 13 October 1792; Diary, 13 June, 29 December 1789; Morning Chronicle, 31 August 1790, 20 July 1791,13 February, 12 March, 2 April 1792; General Evening Post, 9–11 February 1792. The Derby Mercury (16 February 1792) published adjacent ads for Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Rights of Woman, a Birmingham antislavery meeting, a long list of abolition petitions, a suggestion for a separate ladies’ petition, and a report of lower sugar sales. In ibid., 1 March, there were advertisements for free sugar, Paine’s The Rights of Man, Parliamentary Reform, and a petition of Chesterfield inhabitants for abolition. During the mobilization for the Manchester petition of 1792 a citizen of Broughton called for the relief of certain ‘fellow citizens (parish apprentices) … who are … suffering under the hands of as cruel task masters as in the West Indies’ (letter of 30 January 1792, in Manchester Mercury, 31 January 1792); an inquiry was in fact launched. Northampton Mercury, 4 February 1792). In Ireland the Dublin Post noted that all were unanimous for ‘an abolition of slavery in our West India possessions — why not begin at home’ with oaths of allegience and supremacy? (25 March 1788.) And while the British were giving liberty to the Africans, the Irish ‘must seize their own’, (ibid., 3 May 1792.) See also Belfast’s Northern Star, 28 January–1 February 1792. A patriotic meeting in Ireland toasted ‘the cause of all those who are persecuted because they are black, and blackened because they are persecuted!’ (Diary, 14 April 1792.) Thomas Spence’s Pig’s Meat, 3 vols (London, 1793–5), 1, 268–72, compared Africans with the ‘Celtic slaves’ in the Hebrides;Google Scholar
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  61. The first of John Thelwall’s Political Lectures (London, 1795), referred to impressment as ‘that European slave-trade!’, and he joined the inhabitants of Gallia and the ‘sooty African’ in claiming rights as ‘a MAN and a BROTHER!’ (ibid.).Google Scholar
  62. See also J. Thelwall, The Tribune, 3 (London, 1796), no. 35, 47; The British Crisis, or the Disorder of the State at its Height (London, 1797), 35, andGoogle Scholar
  63. Thomas Somerville’s Discourse on the Slave Trade at Jedburgh (Kelso, 1792), 28–9: ‘Every little domestic tyrant, who domineers among his relations and dependents, and treats them like slaves — parents, who, by severe usage, provoke their children to wrath — husbands who are bitter against their wives — masters who make their servants serve with rigour, and make their lives grivious with hard bondage … — landlords who are oppressive to their tenants’; all these had been brought ‘into view by investigating the history of the slave trade’. The symbolic transference of slavery to female subservience also became a permanent feature of the age of abolition. ‘All women are slaves’, Mary Wollstonecraft’s fictional heroine Marie declared in 1798. Similar linkages by William Thompson and Owenite women in the 1830s and 1840s were part of a continuous rhetorical tradition.Google Scholar
  64. See Barbara Taylor, Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1983), 32–5. Thomas Spence claimed that property in land or the funds depended on the same arguments as the slave trade: Spence, The Important Trial of Thomas Spence on May 27, 1801 (London, 1807), preface, 15–16. A handbill was circulating among the soldiers in 1792; ‘O Soldiers … reflect how cruelly you are used worse by far than Negroes in our transatlantic possessions. How are you flogged, how are you tormented, how are you punished and above all starving upon a sixpence a day’ (PRO HO 42/23). On the ‘unity’ of popular liberties, see M. E. Happs, ‘The Sheffield Newspapers’, 28.Google Scholar
  65. 78.
    Davis res,ts his case for displacement in 1807 largely on the impact of J. Stephen’s The Dangers of the Country (London, 1807). (See Davis, Slavery in . . . Revolution, 366–7, 465–6.) However, in the same issue that Benjamin Flower hailed the ‘triumph of humanity in the abolition of the slave trade’, he condemned the government for ‘the massacre and slaughter committed at VELLORE in the East Indies’, and ‘the union of the saints and the contractors’ at Sierra Leone (Flower’s Political Register, 1 (1807), xvi, xxxv, 220). Referring specifically to Stephen’s Dangers of the Country, Flower noted that it overlooked the country’s real dangers, executive influence, Parliamentary corruption, and arrogant domination of the seas.Google Scholar
  66. Flower emphasized that Stephen’s call for national reformation called for only one reform: abolition. (Ibid., 1, 3 (March 1807), xlii–xliv); Compare with Davis, Slavery inRevolution, 365–8. For good reasons, Tory political pamphlets after 1807 made only the briefest mention of the passage of abolition without editorial comment. See A True History of a Late Short Administration (London, 1807), 2. For the impact of Parliamentary abolition on Manchester’s mobilization for relief in 1811–12,Google Scholar
  67. see Clive Emsley, British Society and the French Wars, 1793–1815 (London, 1979), 155. See also Cowdroy’s Manchester Gazette, 14 December 1816 for the rhetoric of ‘African slavery’ in the Spa Fields Riot.Google Scholar
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    Drescher, Econocide, 152–61; ‘Two Variants’, 59; J. Walvin, ‘The Public Campaign in England against Slavery, 1787–1834’, in D. Eltis and J. Walvin (eds), The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade (Madison, 1981), 67–8; Gloucester Journal, 27 June, 11 July 1814.Google Scholar
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    Betty Fladeland, ‘Abolitionist Pressures on the Concert of Europe, 1814–1822’, Journal of Modern History, 38 (1966), 355–73. For scenes of the enchained Africans at victory celebrations see Manchester Exchange Herald, 12 July 1814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. The progovernmental Courier in 1814 denounced the slave-trade petitioners for dampening the enjoyment of victory (ibid., 5 July, 5 August 1814).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. 82.
    Contemporaries had no difficulty in making distinctions and combinations. The Opposition deeply resented Wilberforce’s insinuation that because York’s 1792 slavery petition was more numerously signed than the Sedition Bills petition of 1795–6, the county was less favourably disposed toward of the latter (Morning Chronicle. 7 December 1795). The West Indians could only push their tu quoque just so far. Despite Pitt’s opposition to the slave trade the West Indian MPs knew that their best hope lay with the conservatives (see Morning Chronicle, 2 December 1795). Benjamin Flower attacked the hypocrisy of Pitt and Gren-ville, and ‘our evangelical Wilberforces and Thorntons’ as early as 1796. See National Sins Considered, in two Letters to the Reverend Thomas Robinson (Cambridge, 1796), 24–5, 48–9. A cartoon entitled ‘The Victorious Procession to St. Paul’ (British Museum Prints and Drawings no. 9046, 1797), shows Wilberforce holding a Common Prayer book in one hand, a paper marked ‘slave, trade’ in his pocket, a pistol held behind him and a Negro in livery. See also The British Crisis (London, 1797), 34; A Letter to William Wilberforce, (London, 1797); John Gale Jones, Sketch of a Political Tour through Rochester, Chatham etc. (London, 1796), 62–3; Exposition of the Principles of the English Jacobins (Norwich, 1796), 31; The Speeches of John Home Tooke (1796), 32; Anthony Pasquin, Legislative Biography (London, 1795), 19–20; Considerations on the French Warby a British Merchant (London, 1794). Benjamin Flower hailed the passage of abolition while accusing Pitt and Grenville of having hatched a systematic plan ‘for subduing the old British spirit’, and while denouncing Cobbett as the one advocate of the slave trade ‘among the people at large’. Flower’s Political Review, 1 (1807), first essay, vii, xxxv, xliv, xlvi. A ‘Freeholder’ attacked Wilberforce in his Yorkshire stronghold for thinking of peace for Africa alone, and for not relieving his own society by lowering the tax burdens on his constituents (York Herald, 30 May 1807). In 1814 Wilberforce was accused of voting for ‘the starvation of the brave and innocent Norwegians into subjection’ (Cowdroy’s Manchester Gazette, 4 June 1814). In 1818 T. J. Woller’s The Black Dwarf wrote an open letter to Wilberforce: You saw the negro in chains, you raised your voice in his behalf, and effected a partial redemption from his bonds. But you paused. It was dangerous to offend the sons of power too far; and you had obtained all the popularity, from the friends of liberty, that they could bestow. [You helped] your friends to fasten the shackles of tyranny upon every hand at home, and make whites the successors of blacks in the manacles of bondage.Google Scholar
  72. Granville Sharp, on the other hand, was always recognized as a fellow reformer (ibid., 2 (18 March 1818), 165–7; 3 (24 November 1819), 771).Google Scholar
  73. 87.
    It is also possible to cite a fraction of the epistolary evidence: the English poor, World, 31 January 1788; Morning Chronicle, 17 March, 9 July, 8 November 1788; day labourers, maids of all work, the poor, seamen, and soldiers, St James’s Chronicle, 18–20 March, 29 March–1 April, 18–21 October, 17–18 November 1788; impressment, bull baiting, and chimney sweeps, Bristol Journal, 16 February 1788, and the Gazetteer, 5 March 1788, 15 May 1789; poor laws, debtor laws, impressment, religious intolerance, The Repository, 4 (16 February 1788), 95–6; mechanics and day labourers, Chelmsford Chronicle, 22 March 1788; British workers and soldiers, Whitehall Evening Post, 22–4, 29–30 January, 27–9 March, 19–21 June 1788; the miners of Cornwall, the Scottish Highlanders, and the Irish poor, Public Advertiser, 13 May 1788; schoolboys, The Argus of the Constitution, 29 February 1792; prize fighters, ibid., 20 February 1788, Morning Chronicle, 13 April 1792; animal cruelty, Diary, 14 January 1792; deportees in Botany Bay, convicts, prostitutes, white slaves in Canada, and plundering in India, ibid., 18 April 1791, 24 January 1792. See also Jesse Foot, A Defence of the Planters in the West Indies (London, 1792), andGoogle Scholar
  74. An Appeal to the Candour and Justice of the People of England (London, 1792), passim;Google Scholar
  75. an antiabolitionist MPs rejoinder to John Gale Jones in Sketch of a Political Tour through Rochester, etc. (London, 1792), 62–3. For specific assertions that West Indian slaves were better off than other groups, especially the workers of Europe, see: Bristol Journal, 16 February 1788; Public Advertiser, 10 March 1788, 2 April 1792; Morning Chronicle, 27 June, 19 September 1788; St. James’s Chronicle, 18–20 March, 29 March–1 April, 19–23 April, 18–21 October, 17–18 November 1788; Diary, 24, 28 April, 25, 26 June, 21 July 1789; 28 April 1792. Antiabolitionists also shifted the analogy between colonial slaves and European peasants to a comparison between the manufacturing towns of Britain and the ‘manufactories’ of the West Indies. See Letters Concerning the Abolition of the Slave Trade (London, 1807), 7. Such comparisons appear to have been quite reflexive. Instances of the British labour/colonial slave analogies occurred even before 1788, whenever stimulated by discussions of slavery. See, for example, [John Newbery]Google Scholar
  76. Tom Telescope, The Newtonian System of Philosophy adapted to … Young Gentlemen and Ladies (London, 1761), 121 and an anti-Somerset letter in the Gazetteer of 15 July 1772. In the very first deliberations of the Edinburgh abolition committee in 1792 an opponent of immediate abolition favourably compared the slaves with the British poor. (See Dickson, Diary, Edinburgh, 17 January 1792.) Comparisons continued right through and beyond emancipation. Slaves were ‘more comfortably settled than the working classes in Ireland’, and it was inconsistent with both justice and Christianity ‘that a child of a British labourer should be subject to longer toil than a convicted felon or an adult slave’. House of Commons Select Committee on Public Petitions 1833, 963, 1222–3, 1325. For Cobden’s analogy see BL Add Mss 50131 ff. 38–9, Cobden to Sturge, 20 July 1841.Google Scholar
  77. 88.
    See William L. Garrison (ed.), Lectures of George Thompson, with a full report of the discussion between Mr. Thompson and Mr. Borthwick, the pro-slavery agent (Boston, 1836), 90–4. It was difficult for those who regularly flogged soldiers not to think of them as slaves. But such a set of wanton idle Knaves! You’re forced by G-d! to treat them all as Slaves. (From The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome (London, 1816, reprinted 1904), 146–7, kindly furnished by Roger N. Buckley from his forthcoming ‘Treat Them Like Slaves:’ Crime and Punishment in the British Army 1796–1824).Google Scholar
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    On labour in America, see Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (London/New York, 1970), 29–39, 46–51, 58–61;Google Scholar
  79. I. Berlin and H. G. Gutman, ‘Natives and Immigrants, Free Men and Slaves’, The American Historical Review, 85, 5 (December 1983), 1194–9. On the contrary, in Southern cities with a large white labour force elements of the local élite were seeking to disenfranchise the working class on the eve of the American Civil War.Google Scholar
  80. See Fred Siegel, ‘Artisans and Immigrants in the Politics of Late Ante-Bellum Georgia’, Civil War History, 27, 3 (Fall 1981), 221–30; and ‘Artisans and Immigrants in Late Ante-Bellum Virginia and South Carolina: The Politics of an anomaly’ (Mss kindly sent by the author). On the social and ideological links between British antislavery and social movements for the poor, workers, women, animals, etc.,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. see Brian Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom: Stability and Social Change in Modern Britain (Oxford, 1982). As John Bohstedt concludes: ‘if the English people were not inclined towards insurrection, that is no proof of the “hegemony” of their rulers or of the primacy of ideological rather than political and economic domination’ (Riots and Community Politics in England (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), 222). For a regional example of convergent mobilizations,Google Scholar
  82. see Frank W. Munger, Jr ‘Contentious Gatherings in Lancashire England 1759–1830’, in Louise A. Tilly and Charles Tilly (eds), Class Conflict and Collective Action (London/Los Angeles, 1981), 73–109.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Seymour Drescher 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seymour Drescher
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PittsburghUSA

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