The British Empire was the largest ever known in History. It did at one point encompass North America, India, Australia, New Zealand and large swathes of Africa. It is this part, in Africa, where it’s most controversial basis of income rests. Fuelled in part by the Industrial revolution and the overseas export of products and raw materials, the Empire also did well with a triangle of trade exporting Human beings to the Caribbean and to North America. Ships would leave Britain with textiles and manufactured products to sell in Africa. Here they would collect Slave and sail to North America. Here they were sold and then Cotton, sugar and tobacco was taken back for sale in Britain’s markets. It was a deeply lucrative industry that created phenomenal wealth that can be seen in such places as the National Trust’s property Penrhyn Castle. However, many in society were starting to move against the trade rightly seeing it as inhuman. In 1791 one man William Wilberforce began to try and force through law that would make the slave trade illegal. You could say he worked as an early type of Solicitor Southend way, in that he fought for justice and the rights of individuals who did not know the political and judicial system the way that he did.
Appealing to his deeply held Christian beliefs abolitionists persuaded the MP for Yorkshire to take up the cause. This he did with great aplomb soon becoming the main voice and force in driving for an end to the trade. With a full supporting cast of fellow MPs and activist s Wilberforce gathered together evidence that the trade was completely inhumane and that there were other ways that the Empire could continue to trade and still grow. The great speech on the 18th April 1791 and it was Wilberforce’s second attempt to get the bill through. The issue was not so much the Commons where he even had the support of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. It was the Lords where the problem occurred. Wilberforce’s impassioned speech called for an end to the suffering and that the time of the late eighteenth century was one of science and enlightenment and the system had no place in it.
Being a pious man Wilberforce also strongly argued in the Christian moral authority that the trade was wrong. It made no difference as the bill was defeated but the foundations for the abolition of Slavery was begun and now no force could stop it.