The effects of the French Revolution

Facsimile of a Republican placard
Facsimile of a Republican placard from the French Revolution

The events associated with the French Revolution in 1789 encouraged the belief among many that the abolitionist cause was associated with revolutionary ideas:

  • Revolution overthrew the French monarchy, under the slogan of "Liberty, equality, fraternity". It inspired fear of revolution in Britain
  • The Abolitionist Thomas Clarkson openly supported the French Revolution
  • Abolitionists used the same tactics as radicals to win public support – associations, petitions, cheap publications, public lectures, public meetings, pressure on Parliament
  • Some abolitionists were linked to radicals. Some felt they had to be resisted because of fear events in France may be repeated in Britain
  • There was a government clampdown on radical activity. The Treason Act (1795) declared that a meeting of more than 12 people could be illegal and if not disbursed after one hour of warning the people meeting could be sentenced to death. Some pro-abolition activists were convicted and sent to Australia under this Act