Slave Uprisings in the West Indies
The proponents of the slave trade lobbied extensively against famous orators such as William Wilberforce, a prominent abolitionist, to protect their property and their livelihood. In Parliament, the supporters of the trade had to defend their position against Wilberforce's powerful three-hour argument supporting the trade's abolition. (62) The supporters of the trade argued in their speeches and petitions that further development of the islands was necessary for the security of Great Britain, the strength of British manufactures, and the strength of the navy. (63) They further asserted that agriculture in the islands could not be carried on without slave labor. This assertion rang true with the economic principles of Great Britain. In 1798, the younger William Pitt, Britain's Prime Minister, estimated that the income derived from the West Indies was greater than that from the whole of the rest of the empire including Ireland. (64) The West Indies were an area of great attention for Parliament and at the heart of the slavery question.
Slave beating
Slave beating (70)
Slave beating
Slave beating (69)
The supporters of slavery could not have been more correct about the French threat to the British islands. The famous abolitionist, James Ramsay, wrote An Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies in 1784. (65) This essay described the harsh treatment of British slaves in the colonies. He asserted that the French gave their negroes more food, holidays, religious instruction, private property, and in general, more humane treatment than did the English. (66) This discrepancy between the French and British attitudes towards the institution inclined slaves to favor the French. Unlike the French planters who lived and worked on the plantations, "the English planter, if out of debt, must run away to England...where generally lost to every useful purpose in life, he vies with nobility in extravagance...while his attorney, and manager, are obliged to overwork, and pinch, his poor slaves, to keep up, or increase the usual remittances." (67) The English plantation system, therefore, presented a perfect environment for tension and conflict. The slaves, as a result, turned to France. For the good of the cause, they murdered men, women, or children with equal indifference; and when hunted down, died with the cry Vive la Republique. (68)
The French used British slaves to spur multiple uprisings and enlist them to the French cause. As a result, slavery became not only an issue within Britain, but a large-scale international debate.
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