Abolishment of Slavery: Ideological Motivations


Britain at one point was considered the main nation where slave trade was one of the lucrative businesses. The business was conducted across all classes of people irrespective of their status. They considered slavery as one of the means through which they contributed to nation building. This led to the emergence of nonconformists who radically opposed the trade based on Christian values. Presently, people are still forced to perform and do things against their will and at times threatened with punishment and physical abuse. This calls for continued campaigns against such human abuses which are on rise. The various governments should take responsibility of stopping slavery in areas under their jurisdiction and give adequate moral support to the victims of slavery. Slavery also exists in the economic sector and trade where there is existence of unequal distribution of resources, which makes many feel the underpinning effect which in turn brings the aspect of modern slavery (Quirk 36-40).

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Slavery existed from the beginning of civilization to date where it is practiced in different forms. The effect that slavery had on the well being of societies is still felt within and across continents. There is emergence of the topic on compensation payment to be given to the descendants of the African American slaves for their human rights that was violated. This case has attracted the concern of the human rights organizations in the past decades who seek for the establishment of a humane society. This thesis report focuses on Slavery and the ideological motivations that led to its abolishment in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries (Moir and Symington 104-267).

Ideological motivations that prompted the abolitionist movement

The main interest of Europe was to develop its economic empire by use of human slaves. However the issue of human morals played a big part in ending of slavery, since it was considered immoral to play around with human dignity bestowed upon him by God. The issue of slavery as seen by historians was mostly based on economic gains and not racial. The laborers from Africa were cheaper as compared to their counterparts from Asia and Europe. The release of a slave in 1772 followed the declaration on the fight against slavery in England; this made the topic on slavery to be given much consideration and attention in the public domain giving rise to the concepts of human liberty and equality within Europe. William Wilberforce led the formation of Abolition movement in 1787, which led to the abolition of slave trade and the complete abolition of slavery in the British Empire based on Christian faith and morals (Bassiouni 458-517).

Though the campaigners had to wait many years for the implementation of their goals, small victories were achieved along the way. The first slave was released on the basis that there was no law in England that supported the act of slavery. The consequences was that it brought to attention the essence of ethics surrounding the protection of human, it brought about the rise of organizations and civil societies in the eighteenth century that focused on the need for equality in all human aspects both in religious and secular world (Oldfield). Several other slaves were released after the incident, though the issue of slavery was still in practice in Europe. This event also made most of the reigning governments at that time to take seriously the issue on slavery (Wallace).

The paper focuses on many strategies used in ensuring the end of slavery and the transformation that have occurred concerning abolition of slavery. The underlying concepts on slavery and its abolition form the clear distinction existing between proponents of slavery and abolitionists. The whole concept on slavery was considered as a very big obstacle towards the building of both economical and social relationship amongst different races, it was a war between good and evil. It brought about very unstable relationship between Europeans and Africans who viewed each other as enemies.

Goals of abolition movements

The abolition movements aimed at bringing into attention the moral and cultural contexts of slavery that were ignored by European governments who practiced slavery. There were so many hidden aspects of slavery that were asserted based on reported offenses rather than analysis on the reality about slavery. The abolition movements decided to lead people towards the right road to liberty, which was characterized by deeper involvement in reality as opposed to simplified methods used by political movements. The abolition movements majorly focused on the people that were enslaved and the reasons behind the whole practice. Their focus was on deregistering the legal status of slavery that had preoccupied the few minds within British Empire. However, the treatment of slavery in the contemporary society is still under analysis in various government and community sectors.

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Distinction between humanitarian and Christian motivations

Christian movement

The readings and conversions of former slavers to Christian faith contributed to the abolition of slavery. The readings of the bible brought it clear to those who supported slavery that God’s standards and values considers all men to be equal hence need for human liberation from all kinds of oppression. Most of the abolitionists in Europe were those who professed Christian faith, the likes of William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. The biblical teachings on human dignity and his relationship with God demanded some humane treatment on slaves. This makes the it clear that abolition movement were indeed inspired by Christian movement

Humanitarian movement

This focused so much on the rate of moral rejection that was practiced by those who supported slavery and the general torture on human being that was practiced. It based its argument on the fact that all human being irrespective of background shared one thing in common, refers to as brotherhood. The humanitarian argument calls for the abolition of slave trade since it is inhuman; this is contrary to the belief that trading in slaves rescues them from their own countrymen’s cruelty. There are several features used to define the essence of slavery based on the fact that it presents complete control of one person over the other. This was based on various factors such as economic power and inferiority complex. African slaves were considered to be inferior in all aspects; this was strongly opposed by the British legal law and religious movements.

Literature Review

The years between 1772 and 1834 marked the emergence of a society in Great Britain that was much more concerned about human dignity. The abolition of slave trade in Europe was experienced in several stages and this happened between 18th and 19th century. The society came to realize the important and good ways through which human could be treated other than slavery; interest on how British colonies were treated raised a lot of concern amongst humanitarian groups. In the 1770s and 80s, the slave trade came under increasing criticism from the Quaker committee under the leadership of Granville Sharp and, from 1787 to 1833 through Christian faithful like William Wilberforce and his supporters from the government of Britain. The predominant argument of those against the practice was that all human being have the right to justice (Cigoano 98-99).


In this paper the quantitative development of the texts either against or supporting slavery is examined. As per the view of those who supported slavery, the most popular argument seems to have been that slavery was morally justified on the grounds that the Africans had been slaves in their own countries. In this research critical analysis will be used based on modern and earlier manuscripts on slavery. Using the methods of ideological criticism, the arguments concerning slavery tempts to give the reasons as to how new image and ways of anti-slavery was introduced and the consequent results that were experienced through it. The methodology distinguishes between well-written and figurative strategies in the debate on slavery which gives opinions of the majority and minority, used to support the debate patterns. These include the use of exposed images captured during the slavery and inhuman acts used in supporting slavery, there is also depiction of Africans living free from enslavement by colonialists which was taken to show existence of good relations.

Historical questions that may be answered using the chosen primary sources

Slavery is considered one of dangerous abuses that ever happened to humanity. Due to its inhuman nature, several motivations were formed to counteract its effects and negative influence on humanity.

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Slavery was considered unlawful trade because of the abuse it inflicted on human being (Philmore 5). Man is a rational animal that has the same powers irrespective of skin color; he is a moral agent having natural intellect. Slavery brought about the issue of whites exercising irrelevant authority against their black counterparts. They did not consider blacks as equal human beings who deserve right to freedom and life (Philmore 7). They ignored the fact that the same God who created them also created blacks and has given the earth as a common dwelling place for both. All men are under the same eternal law of reason that is engraved upon their conscious. Therefore, the abolition of slave trade was due to the love of mankind and obedience to God’s law that commands us to do well to all (Philmore 13).

So many human lives were destroyed through the wicked practices of slave trade (Philmore 45). This was an alteration to the supreme legislature of God that safeguards supreme nature of human being. So many human actions are influenced by the fear of man instead of the fear of God and this leads them to lose respect to human life and have the second thought of sacrificing the whole human race. Cruel punishments were administered to black slaves as compared to their white counterparts (Philmore 49).

There is little difference between modern and historical slavery both in Christian and secular world

The terror of Europe in Africa during the dark ages has lately attracted the attention of scientists and religion. The research and transactions of Europeans in Egypt by the end of 18th century were driven by justice, kindness and desire for knowledge instead of money. Houssa, whose population was almost that of London and Cairo, was reported to be the capital of a powerful empire in the centre of Africa by an Arab merchant known as Shabeni. The government was ruled by a king and the administration of justice was severe though directed by written laws. Hereditary officers, whose functions are similar to the Canongoes of Hindustan, guarded the rights of property. Writing was a common art although the characters were different from either Arabic or Hebrew. The eunuchs of seraglio were brought from Houssa as the English consuls were informed (Moir and Symington).

An illustration on historical slavery is the account of Major Houghton, who entered Gambia and was recognized by the king of Barra. He sailed up to Jonkakonda but deserted the customary route on being informed of plans to expedite him and traversed the southern bank to Cantor and entered Woolli. He proceeded to the river Faleme in Bondou where his blue coat and various other commodities were stolen by the King of Bondou. After crossing Sera Cole, also known as the river of Gold, he moved on to the Capital of Bambouk; Ferbanna, where he received with great kindness and hospitality. Major Houghton proposed to the king of Bambouk to open up trade with the English for ammunition but his proposal was interrupted by the annual presents of fermented honey made to the king by his servants. The adventures of travelers among harsh tribes attracted the highest curiosity because the courage required was equated to that of the civilized warrior.

Saugnier and his companions were separated and enslaved by the Mongearts and Monselemines in a voyage to Senegal. During his 30 day journey his food was milk mixed with camel urine and a little barley-meal mixed with brackish water. There was excellent land that produced great quantities of truffles in the land where he traversed. There were numerous establishments on the coast of Africa since the first discovery was made by Portuguese, who formed large colonies and attempted to instruct the natives in land cultivation. The Portuguese also taught their nations religion which tended to soften their manners and reform their morals. They were expelled from Benin, Guinea and Negritia by other European powers that were collaborating with the natives though they still have some factories in these countries (Moir and Symington 102).

There is a slight difference between modern and historical slavery as seen through religious and humanitarian perspective.

There is an evil assertion from the colonial society that Africans do not deserve good education as their white counterparts. There was the belief that Africans were only linked to the chain of slavery and nothing good (Cugoano 5-146). The agony of slaves and their fight against misery they are subjected to, can as well be traced historically and contemporarily. The great sadness brought by their misery and oppressions from colonizers can be explained by the merciful heart of those who had been changed through God’s touch (Cugoano 11). It is only through the light of God that truth and facts about slavery are discussed (Cugoano 16).

Historically, those who practiced slavery were known to be cruel and treacherous with no respect to fellow human being. Majority of the vulnerable people were considered anti-social, the leaders could pass by and execute their judgments at will without any resistance. As kings ride along the highway, they cut off the heads of innocent men to create fear in their subjects. However, there were people who saw the actions as immoral and demanded for justice. The plains of Barbary and the districts which touch upon the mountains were naturally fertile and the residents considered Negros as inferior group compared to whites. Arabs regard Negroes as slaves but considered with equal contempt upon mixed Moors and Christian renegades (Weissbrodt).

The Religious and Humanitarian motivations versus the literature that advocated abolition of slavery

There is a deep consideration and reappraisal of the discussion on abolition of slavery in Europe. The paper achieves this goal by looking at formal and non-formal strategies used by different texts from different authors across the world. This is also achieved by analyzing the most sensitive and argumentative areas within the society such as economic, religious and humanitarian sectors (Philips). The use of crucial terms by British writers on Slavery and the thorough study on the change that occurred in the way slavery was viewed from supporters and opponents in 18th and 19th century gave the necessary drive required for commencement of abolition movements. This led to occurrence of great international co-operation and networking on organizations that advocated for accountability on human morals. It is believed that anti-slavery movements were so much felt in the late 18th century, which is one of the criterions used to select the texts for the study (Philips).


Since a prevailing paradigm is not in need of justification, reactions to slavery in literature tended to be favorable to the cause of abolition. However, with the emergence of the abolitionist movement, more and more texts were written in defense of slavery. European commerce had pernicious effects on the morals and happiness of the Africans. It has introduced general insecurity and fraud therefore many natives have expressed interest in the possibility of its elimination. The chief of Almammy refused to allow the French to march their slaves from Gallam through his country and also prohibited slave trade. Those who are immediately concerned with slave trade desire their children to be educated in the white man’s way. Therefore the interaction with the Negroes has led to the degradation of moral nature (Moir and Symington 103).

Unfair commercial principles of degrading the Negro and disgracing the European have continued to regulate the interaction of the white man and their sables. The Swedish design of establishing a colony came from disinterested motives. Some members of the society formed to diffuse the principles of civilization in 1779. It was impractical in Europe to erect a community that was a privilege of enacting its own laws, coining of its own money and exempting its members from imprisonment for debt but it was deemed to be practical in the western coast of Africa. Although there was opposition from slave trade, a plan was formed and forty families were settled in the coast of Africa (Moir and Symington 107). The Swedish design of agricultural colonization was regretted by every person of humanity and was not sustainable because it originated from the ideas of extravagant philanthropy.


Bassiouni, Cherif. Enslavement as an International Crime. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, 23(1991): 458-517

Cugoano, Ottobah. Thoughts and sentiments on the evil of Slavery. Oxford University Press. London, 1737

Moir, John & Symington. A historical and philosophical sketch of the discoveries and Settlements of the Europeans in Northern and Western Africa at the close of 18th century. Oxford University Press. London, 1799

Oldfield, John. British Popular Politics and British Anti-Slavery 1787 – 1807. Manchester University Press. London, 1995.

Philips, George-Yard. Remarks on the slave trade and the slavery of the Negroes. Oxford University Press. Lombard Street, London 1737.

Philmore, Joseph. Two Dialogues on the man-trade. Oxford University Press. London, 1760

Quirk, Joel. Ending Slavery in all its forms: Legal abolition and effective Emancipation in historical perspective. International Journal of Human Rights, 13(2008): 529-554.

Wallace, John. The British Slave Trade and Public Memory. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006

Weissbrodt, David. Abolishing Slavery and its Contemporary Forms. New York: United Nations. 2002. Web.

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