Main abolitionist arguments

The abolitionists put forward various arguments to support their cause of banning the slave trade. These can be grouped into the following areas.


Adam Smith wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations’ in 1776. He wrote that enslaved people were the most inefficient and costly form of labour that could be used. Sugar could be produced more cheaply by paid non-slave workers in India.

Some argued that British industry no longer depended so heavily on the slave trade. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing - new British factories had many vacancies for unemployed people. British trade, with its colonies in India and the Far East, was growing rapidly.


Enslaved people were denied their freedom and their human rights. Many British sailors died on the triangular trade. The slave trade brutalised all who took part in it.


The Bible taught that people should treat each other with kindness and love. God created humankind as brothers and sisters - slavery broke the rules of the Ten Commandments.