The Sugar Boycott

One of the most successful campaigns for the Abolitionist Movement was encouraging British people, especially women, not to buy or use goods produced by slaves in the West Indies, particularly sugar. Around 300,000 people boycotted sugar and sales dropped dramatically.

National Petition Campaign, 1788

The 'Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade' organised a nationwide effort to highlight the evils of the Atlantic slave trade and to mark it as an issue of national outcry. It met with vastly positive public response and over 100 petitions were presented to Parliament within three months. Manchester sent the largest petition, with 10,639 signatures –almost 20 per cent of the city’s population.

Autonomous Societies - Aberdeen, Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow for example - were formed throughout the country. Their members continued to concentrate minds on the goal of abolition. Four years later, 519 petitions were presented. 185 of these came from Scotland.

Short term effects:

  • Wilberforce was able to argue from a position of strength in the House of Commons. He could confidently assert that his arguments reflected a nationwide concern
  • The petitions were often organised through church congregations, giving the abolitionists the weight of the religious argument

In the long term, the anti-slavery message was both widespread and deep-seated. Abolition became an election issue. Pressure was put on those standing for Parliament to declare their position on the issue.