Religious factors

The Church of England generally accepted the idea of slavery. It had links to the slave trade through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and plantations in Barbados. Its slaves were branded on their chest with the word ‘society’. The Church of England supported laws not to educate slaves. In addition the Church was very much part of the state and therefore followed the political doctrine of those in power.

Biblical teaching

Some Bible passages were used to justify slavery. In Genesis Noah placed the 'curse of Ham' on the descendents of his son, starting with his grandson Canaan.

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Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave'.Genesis, 9, 25-27

Christians believed that Canaan's descendants settled in Africa. They saw a direct link between Canaan being cursed into slavery with the enslavement of Africans.

Other biblical passages were seen to oppose slavery. Chapter 21 of Exodus includes laws about slaves, including rules on their freedom.

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Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.Exodus, 21, 16

This passage was banned in British colonies due to its perceived hostility to slavery.