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Anti-Slavery Society

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Anti-Slavery Society

The painting of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention at Exeter Hall. Move your cursor to identify delegates or click the icon to enlarge.[1]


The Anti-Slavery Society (ASS) was the everyday name of two different British organisations.

The first was founded in 1823 and was committed to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Its official name was the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions (SMEG). This objective was substantially achieved in 1838 under the terms of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

In 1839, a successor organisation was formed, committed to worldwide abolition. Its official name was The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (BF-ASS). This continues today as Anti-Slavery International.

Precursors

The elimination of slavery throughout the world was frequently in the mind of early abolitionists. The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which established the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain in 1787, campaigned for an end to the Transatlantic slave trade from Western Africa to the New World, which Britain dominated by then.

The Slave Trade Act 1807 made the slave trade illegal in the British Empire. Following this, British abolitionists turned their attention to abolishing slavery itself, first in British colonies, and later in the US and the colonies of other European powers (e.g., in South America), and in parts of the world where it had long been legal, such as in the Middle East, Africa, and China.

The Anti-Slavery Society of 1823

The first British organisation to refer to itself as the Anti-Slavery Society was founded in Britain in 1823. Founding members included William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson.[1] Its official name was the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions.

Its work included supporting the first account of slavery to be published by a Black woman, Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave (1831). The publishers were sued by the family from which she had escaped. The book was much sought after, running into three editions in the year of its publication.

A wide range of views emerged among the members. Broadly, there were abolitionists who insisted on the full working out of the gradual process of abolition and amelioration (which had its successes), and the generally younger, more radical members, whose moral outlook regarded slavery as a mortal sin to be ended forthwith.

The latter group, including ginger group within the Anti-Slavery Society, the Agency Committee, to campaign for this new act of Parliament. This campaign, and public pressure, led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, though it contained compromises which they disliked.

The indentured labour schemes were particularly opposed by Sturge and the Agency Committee; the full working out of the Act would take several years, with slavery eventually being abolished throughout the British West Indies on 1 August 1838. In response to the new legislation, other members of the Anti-Slavery Society considered their work over. The original purpose, as reflected in the name of the society (abolition in the British dominions), had, they thought, been achieved.

The Anti-Slavery Society of 1839

With abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions achieved, British abolitionists in the Agency Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society considered that a successor organisation was needed to tackle slavery worldwide. Largely under the guidance of Joseph Sturge, the committee duly formed a new society, British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society on 17 April 1839.[2][3] It became widely known as the Anti-Slavery Society, as had the earlier society.

The first secretary was World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840. Thomas Clarkson was the key speaker, and the Convention attracted people from nations around the world where slavery was practiced.

The convention had been advertised as a "whole world" convention, but the delegates representing anti-slavery societies in the United States included several women, among them Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who later were instrumental in the movement for women's rights. Convention leaders refused to seat the women delegates from America, and prominent male abolitionists such as Thomas Knight were outraged. He went on to form his own society.

In the 1850s, under Louis Chamerovzow, the society helped John Brown write and publish his autobiography a decade before the American Civil War ended slavery in the United States.

The second secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, appointed under the honorary secretaries Joseph Cooper and Edmund Sturge, was the Rev. Aaron Buzacott (1829–81), the son of a South Seas missionary also named Aaron Buzacott. With American slavery abolished in 1865, Buzacott worked closely with Joseph Cooper in researching and publishing work designed to help abolish slavery in elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

In 1909, the society merged with the Aborigines' Protection Society to form the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society, whose prominent member was Kathleen Simon, Viscountess Simon. In 1990 the name was changed to Anti-Slavery International.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Slavery and abolition". Oup.com. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  2. ^ About Anti-Slavery International antislavery.org
  3. ^ Patricia Hollis (1974). Pressure from without in early Victorian England. p.39.

External links

  • Anti-Slavery International
  • Anti-Slavery Society Convention 1840
  • Anti-Slavery Society
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