Slave trade, not slavery, abolished in 1807

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2007), Letters, Volume 15


—Your last issue (HI 15.3, May/June 2007), which included a numberof articles on Ireland and slavery, was, as usual, excellent. I wouldlike, however, to offer a corrective to a frequently made mistake inyour editorial. The opening sentence stated that ‘This year marks thebicentenary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, of whichIreland was then part’. In fact, the 1807 Slave Trade Act onlyabolished the slave trade in the empire, by prohibiting British vesselsfrom engaging in the trade. It took a further 26 years before the SlaveAbolition Act was introduced, which did abolish slavery in the BritishEmpire. The support of many Irish MPs, including Daniel O’Connell in1833, was important in ensuring the success of both pieces oflegislation.
Perhaps it is also worth noting that, to compensate them for theloss of their slaves, slave-owners were awarded over £20 million by theBritish government. As John MacHale, the archbishop of Tuam, wrylypointed out, this far exceeded the amount the same government expendedto save the lives of the Irish poor during the Great Famine.

—Yours etc.,


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