1902 Encyclopedia > Slavery > Progress of the Movement to Abolish the Slave Trade.

(Part 17)


Progress of the Movement to Abolish the Slave Trade.

England had not been the first European power to abolish the slave trade; that honour belongs to Denmark; a royal order was issued 16th May 1792 that the traffic should cease in the Danish possessions from the end of 1802. The United States had in 1794 forbidden any participation by American subjects in the slave trade to foreign countries; they now prohibited the importation of slaves from Africa into their own dominion. This Act was passed 2d March 1807; it did not, however, come into force till Ist January 1808. At the congress of Vienna (opened November 1, 1814) the principle was acknowledged that the slave trade should be abolished as soon as possible; but the determination of the limit of time was reserved for separate negotiation between the powers. It had been provided in a treaty between France and Great Britain, May 30,1814, that no foreigner should in future introduce slaves into the French colonies, and that the trade should be absolutely interdicted to the French themselves after June 1, 1819. This postponement of abolition was dictated by the wish to introduce a fresh stock of slaves into Hayti, if that island should be recovered. Bonaparte, as we have seen, abolished the French slave trade during his brief restoration, and this abolition was confirmed at the second peace of Paris November 20, 1815, but it was not effectually carried out by French legislation until March 1818. In January 1815 Portuguese subjects were prohibited from prosecuting the trade north of the equator, and the term after which the traffic should be everywhere unlawful was fixed to end on 21st January 1823, but was afterwards extended to February 1830; England paid £300,000 as a compensation to the Portuguese. A royal decree was issued on 10th December 1836 forbidding the export of slaves from any Portuguese possession. But this decree was often violated. It was agreed that the Spanish slave trade should come to an end in 1820, England paying to Spain an indemnification of £400,000. The Dutch trade was closed in 1814; the Swedish had been abolished in 1813. By the peace of Ghent, December 1814, the United States and England mutually bound themselves to do all in their power to extinguish the traffic. It was at once prohibited in several of the South American states when they acquired independence, as in La Plata, Venezuela, and Chili. In 1831 and 1833 Great Britain entered into an arrangement with France for a mutual right of search within certain seas, to which most of the other powers acceded; and by the Ashburton treaty (1842) with the United States provision was made for the joint maintenance of squadrons on the west coast of Africa. By all these measures the slave trade, so far as it was carried on under the flags of European nations or for the supply of their colonies, ceased to exist.

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