Re­mem­ber­ing Bri­tain’s Ef­forts Against Slav­ery

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Michael A. Ding­wall

Ev­ery Au­gust we cel­e­brate the end of slav­ery. And rightly so. How­ever, while we have grown ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing about the roles by some of our an­ces­tors in bring­ing an end to slav­ery, very lit­tle is said about Bri­tain’s con­tri­bu­tions to­ward end­ing the evil trade.

When the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment de­cided of­fi­cially in 1807 to end her role in the slave trade, it was not a very pop­u­lar de­ci­sion; and it would turn out to be not a very cheap one for her ei­ther. Dur­ing the 1800s, Bri­tain’s Royal Navy was the most pow­er­ful in the world and the Bri­tish used the Royal Navy not only to put an end to the ex­port of slaves from Africa to the West, but also to stop other na­tions from do­ing the same.

While most of us would want to think that the African peo­ples were al­ways the vic­tims, some of the loud­est protests against the Bri­tish move came from the African ex­port­ing na­tions them­selves.

Did you know, for in­stance, that when the Bri­tish navy was in­ter­cept­ing slave ships from Africa, sev­eral African ex­port­ing na­tions ac­tu­ally sent del­e­ga­tions to Lon­don to try to con­vince the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment that its ac­tions were bring­ing ruin to African economies? Many African gov­ern­ments were protest­ing “Bri­tish im­pe­ri­al­ism” and were de­mand­ing that the Bri­tish stop its anti-slav­ery cam­paign in the At­lantic. When that failed, sev­eral African slave ex­port­ing na­tions sent del­e­ga­tions to Paris and other Euro­pean cap­i­tals in an ef­fort to get these Euro­pean pow­ers to in­flu­ence Bri­tain. Need­less to say, those del­e­ga­tions also failed.The cost to the Bri­tish tax­payer then of her navy’s ef­forts to get the Africans to end their slave ex­ports and to get those in the west to stop buy­ing them was enor­mous. When the Royal Navy started the naval cam­paign in the At­lantic, Bri­tain was at war in Europe, bat­tling France’s Napoleon. Then, when that war was al­most over, Bri­tain was again at war with the United States, in 1815. How­ever, these wars did not di­min­ish Bri­tain’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to end the slave trade.

The Bri­tish fleet was busy in­ter­cept­ing Span­ish, French, Dutch, Por­tuguese and Amer­i­can slaves ships in the At­lantic. By the mid-1800s the Bri­tish had cap­tured, turned back or sunk sev­eral slave ships. They in­cluded the “Vo­ladora”, the “For­mi­da­ble”, and the “Gabriel”. The Bri­tish also used their su­pe­rior naval power to force sev­eral African kings to out­law the trade, among them the king of La­gos, de­posed in 1851.

So while we re­mem­ber the roles our an­ces­tors played in put­ting an end to the slave trade, let us also re­call Bri­tain’s per­sis­tent ef­forts.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.