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The decision antagonized many Northerners and breathed new life into the floundering Abolition Movement.The election of Abraham Lincoln, a member of the anti-slavery Republican Party, to the presidency in 1860 convinced many Southerners that slavery would never be permitted to expand into new territories acquired by the US and might ultimately be abolished.William Cowper’s poem “The Negro’s Complaint” circulated widely and was set to music.
Few knew anything of the horrors of the middle passage from Africa.
Over time, it became more and more difficult for anyone to plead ignorance of this matter.
When, in 1792, Wilberforce again gave notice of a motion, 499 petitions poured in.
Although few MPs favored immediate abolition, this public outcry was hard to ignore.
In 1820, the Missouri Compromise banned slavery in all new western territories, which Southern states saw as a threat to the institution of slavery itself.
In 1857, the Supreme Court decision known as the Dred Scott Decision said that Negroes (the term then used to describe the African race) were not citizens and had no rights of citizenship; therefore, slaves that escaped to free states where not free but remained the property of their owners and must be returned to them.Wilberforce had concluded with a solemn moral charge: “The nature and all the circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us.We can no longer plead ignorance.” Having failed to obtain a final vote, the abolitionists redoubled their efforts to lay open the facts of the trade before the British people.So far, the public had easily ignored what it could not see, and there had been no slaves in England since 1772.English people saw slave ships loading and unloading only goods, never people.“The property of the West Indians is at stake,” said one MP, “and, though men may be generous with their own property, they should not be so with the property of others.” Abolition of the British trade could also give France an economic and naval advantage.Before the parliamentary debates, Englishmen like John Locke, Daniel Defoe, John Wesley and Samuel Johnson had already spoken against slavery and the trade. Johnson once offered the toast, “Here’s to the next insurrection of the Negroes in the West Indies.’’ Amid such scattered protests, the Quakers were the first group to organize and take action against slavery.With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 along with the growing demand for the product in Europe, the use of slaves in the South became a foundation of their economy.In the late 18th century, the abolitionist movement began in the north and the country began to divide over the issue between North and South.Those on both sides of the Atlantic faced expulsion from the Society if they still owned slaves in 1776.In 1783 the British Quakers established the antislavery committee that played a huge role in abolition.