The of owning slaves.” (Anon, 2017b). Throughout the 1700’s

The Impact of Slavery on Liverpool


Slavery has always been a global issue and a continuing
problem in society. The United Kingdom as a whole has been impacted by slavery
but the city of Liverpool was one of the most affected cities in the UK. Slavery
has impacted the English Legal System through the creation of new laws to slow
down slavery for example the (The statutes at large, from the twenty-sixth year
of the reign of King George the Third, to the twenty-ninth year of the reign of
King George the Third, inclusive., 2017, p.512) and to prevent slavery and even
to abolish slavery all together is 1833 (, 2017). The
dictionary definition of a slave is “a person who is the legal property of another
and is forced to obey them” (Anon, 2017a). The dictionary definition of slavery
is “The practice or system of owning slaves.” (Anon, 2017b).

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Throughout the 1700’s the abolishment of slavery movement
had mainly been supported by Quakers. In May 1772, there was a case in which Lord
Mansfield passed a judgement that emancipated a slave in England. This helped gain
more support for the abolishment for slavery movement. The state of slavery is
of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral
or political, but only by positive law statute, … Whatever inconveniences,
therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or
approved by the law of England; and therefore, the black must be discharged
(Somerset v Stewart, n.d.). Then in 1780 after meeting with the former slave
trader John Newton, William Wilberforce who was an MP for Hull decided to
campaign for the abolishment of slavery and soon became the main campaigner for
Parliament. One of William Wilberforce’s associates called Thomas Clarkson was
at Cambridge University and was aiming to become a clergyman. After winning an
essay competition in 1785 with an essay titled ‘Is it lawful to enslave the
unconsenting?’ he had discovered the horrific conditions Africans were forced
to endure. Thomas Clarkson had decided that something had to be done about it.
Clarkson then decided he had to give up university and devote himself to the abolishment
of slavery. “Clarkson was at Cambridge University preparing to become a
clergyman when he entered and won the 1785 annual essay competition, the title
set being ‘Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?’. … Within a year
Clarkson had given up plans to enter the church and had decided to devote
himself full time to the cause.” (UK Parliament, 2017).


In 1788 after many years of fighting to abolish the slave
trade and slavery all together Parliament passed the first act called the
‘Slave Trade Act 1788’. The Slave Trade Act 1788 placed a restriction on how
many slaves in tonnage could be transported on a ship at one time. This reduced
the number of slaves that were being traded between Liverpool, Africa and the
Americas. During this period the Prime Minister William Pitt, who was not
pro-slavery by any mean, had asked William Wilberforce to bring up the slave
trade for debate in the House of Commons. He also tasked the trade committee of
the Privy Council to produce a report on the trade but by the time of the
debate and the passing of the Slave Trade Act 1788 they had not produced the
report. “In the interim, William Pitt … had asked the trade committee of the
Privy Council to investigate the matter thoroughly …. He also asked William
Wilberforce, … to initiate the debate in the House of Commons, and assured
him, on 8 April 1788, of his own active support. … the Privy Council
committee had not yet completed its work and the subject seemed unlikely to be
broached during this session” (LoGerfo, 1973). Due to factors such as the
public outrage because of the Zong Massacre and the general public becoming
unsupportive of slavery and the slave trade, Parliament was able to pass the
Slave Trade Act 1788 with a two-third majority within the House of Commons.


After nearly two decades, in 1807 Parliament passed the
Abolition of the Slave Trade act which made it illegal to trade in slaves
within the British Empire. When the two houses within Parliament finally got to
the voting of the Abolition of the Slave Trade act 1807 the House of Commons
voted with a majority of 114 to 15, within the House of Lords there was also a
majority of 41 to 20. This proves the fact that slavery in the United Kingdom
was unfavourable to the many. “When the bill to abolish the slave trade was
finally voted upon, there was a majority of 41 votes to 20 in the Lords and a
majority of 114 to 15 in the Commons.” (, 2017). The
passing of this vote had great impact on the United Kingdom and Africa because
it stopped all legal trade of slaves. The Royal Navy had started monitoring the
oceans and the seas for illegal slave traders, fining the captains for each
slave on board and then freeing the captured slaves. This happened after
Britain signed multiple treaties with European and American countries, which in
turn Britain had become an international policeman. This happened with the
United Kingdom using the Royal Navy patrol West Africa and the Caribbean for
these illegal slave traders. “… international treaties with European and
American countries, gave Britain the role of international policeman. Following
the passing of the Act, British naval squadrons were set up to patrol the coast
of West Africa and the Caribbean looking out for illegal slavers.” (Britain and
the Slave Trade, n.d.). During this period, the Royal Navy controlled the
world’s oceans and seas and had decided to set up the West Africa Squadron,
between 1808 and 1860 the Royal Navy took possession of roughly 1600 ships and
freed roughly 150,000 illegally capture Africans who were on board the ships.
“Between 1807 and 1860, the West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1,600
ships involved in the slave trade and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard
these vessels.” (, 2008b).


Although these acts had been in place for a few years in
1811 Parliament had to increase the penalty for slave trading because at the
time captains would be charged £100 per slave which in 2017 would equal £8320
per slave, if they were caught trading slaves illegally. “… the Act which had
then just come out by which the slave trade was made punishable as a felony the
51st Geo 3 c 23 passed in May 1811 commonly called the Felony Slave Trade Act
…” (East India, Slavery, 1841). For the entrepreneur at the time who owned a
slave trading business this was an acceptable lost for the business because
slave trading has become a very lucrative business following the Slave Trade
acts 1788 and 1808. Parliament had increased the severity and made slave
trading a felony.


In 1833 after many of protests and petitions from
anti-slavery movements, Parliament decided to bring up the vote for full
abolishment and it passed on the 28th of August 1833. This meant
that any current slave within the British Empire and under the age of 6-years-old
had finally become free and no longer a slave. Anyone over the age of 6-years-old
was not yet free, the current slaves were placed into forced apprenticeships.
“That during the Continuance of the Apprenticeship of any such apprenticed
Labourer such Person or Persons shall be entitled to the Services of such
apprenticed Labourer as would for the Time being have been entitled to his or
her Services as a Slave if this Act had not been made.” (, 1833). The
forced apprenticeships were to end in two stages with the first being in 1st
August 1838 and the final lot of soon to be ex-slaves on the 1st August
1840. Although this excluded
the territories in the possession of the East India Company and also the
islands of Ceylon now known as Sri Lanka and also Saint Helena. “That nothing
in this Act contained doth or shall extend to any of the Territories in the
Possession of the East India Company, or to the Island of Ceylon, or to the
Island of Saint Helena.” (, 1833). The exceptions didn’t last very
long as they were eliminated in 1843, 9 years after the rest of the British
Empire. After many years of working with other people to build public support
for the abolishment of slavery, William Wilberforce has passed away on 29th
July 1833, three days after the third reading of the act in Parliament and just
one month before the act gained Royal Assent.


Many people around the United Kingdom and even the world
agreed with the slave trade, they promoted it and even said that it was an
essential part of economic growth and society. There were people that also
disagreed with the slave trade and promoted the fact that it was inhumane and
that nobody should be forced into labour and into slavery. James Penny was one
of the most out-spoken and pro-slavery supporters in the United Kingdom. James
Penny was from Liverpool and that’s where he had made his fortunes and his
whole business relied on the slave trade market. James Penny preached the idea
that if the slave trade was abolished the county of Lancaster and the city of
Liverpool would fall as fast with the abolishment of slavery as it rose because
of the introduction of the slave trade to the city. “it would not only greatly
affect the commercial interest, but also the landed property of the County of
Lancaster and more particularly, the Town of Liverpool; whose fall, in that
case, would be as rapid as its rise has been astonishing.” (, 2007a).
Many merchants including James Penny had lobbied Parliament into keeping the
slave trade alive unsuccessfully though due to the rising public support for
abolishment. One of the most influential people in Liverpool during this time
was William Roscoe. William Roscoe promoted the abolishment of the slave trade
within Liverpool but he did it from behind the scenes with poems and pamphlet’s
due to the mind-set of the Liverpool population. Due to his hard work though he
had created a growing group within the population of pro-abolitionist’s.
William Roscoe had written a poem called ‘The Wrongs of Africa’ and as a sign
of his support for the abolishment of slavery he donated all proceeds to help
found the London Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. William Roscoe
had been a Liverpool Member of Parliament and because of this he voted with
William Wilberforce against the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. William Roscoe had
come under many attacks many being in the city of Liverpool because of his views.
William Roscoe never gave up and with his persistence and that of others like
William Wilberforce they managed to first ban the slave trade then through the
continuation of their works get the act that abolished slavery altogether
passed and into law. “being assailed in the street where we meet tonight,
Castle Street, as a mob of sailors, and others mired in the slave trade, beat
him to the ground.  This attack simply
led to him redoubling his efforts refusing always to be ground down by defeat
or intimidation.” (, 2010).


In conclusion, the impact of slavery on Liverpool at the
start of the slave trade was beneficial to many and because of this nearly
everyone was pro-slavery. This was because Liverpool was not a wealthy city but
due to it being a port city and the demand for jobs. This changed quickly and
turned the city into one of the busiest ports in the world and also brought in
major sources of income and that was provided from the importation of tobacco,
sugar and cotton. None of this could have happened without the Trans-Atlantic
slave trade and the forced slavery of the African peoples. Due to the increased
support of abolishment, Parliament had to pass act’s that reduced and the
stopped slavery all together in lines with what the public wanted. Today you
can still see the impacts of slavery in Liverpool for example there are names
of pro-slavery merchants and admiralty that are still road names and also the
Liverpool Maritime Museum which still shows you the impacts that were made
during the slavery era.