Anti-slavery campaigns in Britain and their impact on the formation of the United States

by Abayomi Azikiwe

Pambazuka News | February 24, 2019

The leaders of the 18th century separatist movement from England were not motivated by a genuine desire for freedom and equality.

If the so-called American Revolution of 1776 was truly committed to breaking with monarchical and autocratic rule from the United Kingdom then why did slavery grow at a rapid rate after the achievement of independence of the former 13 colonies in North America?

This is an important political question since even in the 21st century there are repeated references by elected officials in both houses of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court to the “Founding Fathers” and “Framers of the Constitution.” What is not mentioned by these career politicians and lifetime jurists is that many of the authors of the United States Constitution were large-scale slave owners themselves.

These wealthy landowners and slave masters did not see any reason to liberate the more than 700,000 Africans living in the former colonies by the conclusion of the 1780s. The existence of slavery was quite profitable and with the discovery of the cotton gin in 1793, the expansion of involuntary servitude across the South and extending further west empowered the planters to the point where as a result of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 they were able to dominate the House of Representatives through a provision declaring that enslaved Africans could be counted as three-fifths of a person.

In an article published by Paul Finkelman of the Albany Law School in New York: “The three-fifths clause provided the extra proslavery representatives in the House to secure the passage of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (bringing Missouri in as a slave state); the annexation in 1845 of Texas, which was described at the time as an ‘empire for slavery’; the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; the law allowing slavery in Utah and New Mexico; and the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 (which opened the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain territories to slavery). None of these laws could have been passed without the representatives created by counting slaves under the three-fifths clause.”[[i]] ….

– Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor at Pan-African News Wire,

 Zong massacre of 1781 by the British slave traders

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