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The Politics of Morality: The Debate Surrounding the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade

DAVE GOSSE
Caribbean Quarterly
Vol. 56, No. 1/2, Slavery, Memory and Meanings: The Caribbean and the Bicentennial of the Passing of the British Abolition of the Trans Atlantic Trade in Africans (March-June, 2010), pp. 127-138
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40654956
Page Count: 12
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The Politics of Morality: The Debate Surrounding the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade
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Abstract

Among the more debatable topics in Caribbean History, the ending of the British trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans 1807, is arguable the most political, as the issue of morality is deeply embedded in the discussion. However, most revisionist historians of the Caribbean are critical of the role of morality as the leading factor in abolition. Instead, these scholars believe that economics was the singular most important reason for the 1807 Abolition Bill. This chapter seeks to extend this economic argument by examining the socio-economic context of the late 18th to early 19th century Jamaica, when the island was one of Britain's important sugar colonies. The British authorities publicly used the issue of morality as a politically convenient tool; but in their private correspondence they urgently sought to alter the declining social and economic context of British Caribbean slavery. They wanted to reform the ways in which slavery was practiced in the British-colonised Caribbean. The "peculiar institution of slavery" was to become more cost effective and economically profitable.

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