The Abolitionist Movement was a historic effort to free all enslaved people as well as put an end to the slave trade. The political and social movement sought the immediate liberation of enslaved people and eliminated all forms of racial discrimination and segregation.
Those who favored gradual emancipation or the limitation of slavery to narrow geographic areas opposed radical abolitionists.
The Second Great Awakening and the American Civil War, among other things, stirred up solid religious feelings that propelled the movement.
The movement, which sought rapid emancipation between 1830 and 1870, used various tactics but encountered strong opposition, particularly from enslavers.
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French Abolitionist Movement
King Louis X issued a freedom proclamation in 1315 that stated that any enslaved person entering French territory got free. Subsequent governments enforced the order by releasing enslaved people who joined France.
The Code Noir of Louis XIV, which guaranteed enslaved people the ability to marry, enjoy off-duty days, and be free from torture, governed the French possessions in America.
Owners of enslaved people started educating them about the Catholic religion. In the 1830s, many enslaved people were released from the colonies, and most of them ended up in the Louisiana Territory.
The First General Abolition of Slavery and Its Re-Establishment By France
Legislation banning slavery was approved on February 4, 1794, across France and its colonies. Enslaved people’s owners were to get compensation. The French constitution of 1795 clearly stated the following year that the Rights of Man prohibited slavery.
Most French enslavers swore to relocate to British-ruled colonies where slavery was still practiced. Due to the French colonies’ threat to secede, France faced an income loss.
This resulted in Napoleon Bonaparte promulgating a statute on May 20, 1802, upon his appointment as the First Consul, to reinstate slavery. Due to a lack of resources to uphold the rule, slavery was briefly reinstated but was quickly abolished in Haiti in 1804.
Second Abolition and Events That Followed
The Decree Law of Schoelcher was scheduled to abolish slavery in all French territories on April 27, 1948. Later, France acquired territories in West Africa, which was a significant supplier of enslaved people; as a result, the slave trade was successfully abolished.
Movement Against Slavery in the United Kingdom
Any enslaved person who landed on English soil became free because slavery was outlawed within England but not in her distant colonies. Therefore, abolitionists started by asking, If we don’t have slaves at home, why are there slaves abroad?
The abolition movement in Britain was led by renowned figures like Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce. Slavery was eventually declared illegal throughout the British Empire by the Slave Trade Act of March 25, 1807.
As a result, Britain forced other countries to end the slave trade by negotiating treaties that gave the Royal Navy the authority to intercept any ship transporting enslaved people. An anti-slavery society was established at the start of 1823 to fight fervently against the larger institution of slavery.
American Abolitionist Movement
Slavery was abolished in Latin America, Canada, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay during and after the American Revolutionary War. Members of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, led the abolishment efforts in the United States.
To gradually emancipate enslaved people, New Jersey and New York agreed to pass legislation. Finally, the slave trade was outlawed nationwide in the US. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, ending slavery and freeing over 3 million enslaved people.
In the end, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution ended slavery in December 1865.