Abolishing the Trade: Public Sentiment and Abolition, 1776–1807

  • James Walvin


The spread of anti-slavery sentiment in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was dramatic, swift and ubiquitous. Within a very short time a national organisation, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, sprang up to tap existing abolitionist feeling, to encourage its further growth and to exert abolitionist pressure on Parliament. Writing, in 1788, the Annual Register remarked that the slave trade ‘does not appear, till of late years, to have been considered with that great attention, which a practice so abhorrent in its nature to the mild principles of modern policy and manners might have been expected to excite’.1 And yet, the initial — and quite unexpected — public response to abolition suggests a reservoir of antipathy waiting to find expression and organisation. A few years after coming into being in 1787, the Abolition Society recorded in its Minute book: ‘The Publick we believe are convinced of that there is something both in the principle and conduct of this Trade fundamentally wrong.’2


Eighteenth Century Slave System Slave Trade Literary Genre Slave Population 
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Copyright information

© James Walvin 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Walvin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of YorkEngland

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