By Mike Kaye
Last updated 2011-02-17
It could be argued that the passage of the 1807 Act owed more to the slave rebellions in the Caribbean and the successful revolution by former slaves in Haiti than it did to the abolitionists in Britain, but this should in no way undermine the achievements of the campaign.
From the first meeting of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade to the passage of the 1807 Act, it took just 20 years. In that time the campaign challenged assumptions that had been embedded over hundreds of years and convinced many thousands of people that not only was slavery wrong, but that they had an obligation to try to end it.
The long-term impact of the campaign was particularly significant, because it firmly established anti-slavery sentiment in the national consciousness. This was important since slavery remained legal. It was the new generation of anti-slavery campaigners who provided the impetus to take the issue forward. The abolitionist leadership was persuaded by the 'grass roots', particularly women's local groups, to abandon its gradualist approach in favour of an immediate end to slavery throughout the British colonies.
This was finally achieved in 1838 and the following year the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was set up (known today as Anti-Slavery International) to work for the global eradication of slavery. Anti-Slavery International continues to work for the elimination of all contemporary forms of slavery, which are estimated to affect a minimum of 12.3 million people around the world today.
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